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JD:

Hello and welcome back to E-commerce in the Trenches. Today I’m excited to have with me Laura Benson of Philly Flair Boutique. Laura, you are one of seven women making waves as featured in E-commerce Magazine. Welcome to the show.

Laura:

Thank you. So honored to be here.

JD:

It’s great that we were able to connect. Kind of a weird question, but if you were to walk out your door right now, tell us what you would see?

Laura:

I would see our huge shipping container where the postman comes and picks up all of our packages at my car, and a bunch of snow.

JD:

A bunch of snow. How much snow?

Laura:

There’s probably a foot on the ground right now.

JD:

It’s beautiful, I bet.

Laura:

No. It’s really not at this point. I think everyone here is a little ready to be done with. It’s actually supposed to snow more this afternoon. I think we’re all so over it. But, it is what it is. We choose to live here.

JD:

That’s right. That’s right. Well, I know that we just moved from Colorado to South Central Texas, and one of the things that I miss is how a fresh coat of snow, it’s so beautiful. It’s so white. It just makes everything feel really clean. We just kind of had a brown winter down here and it’s kind of boring. Although we haven’t had the bitter cold. I grew up in Valentine, Nebraska, not too far from Sioux Falls. I know yesterday morning, it was eleven below there at my Dad’s place.

Laura:

Yeah. It’s been a long winter. We do say that. It definitely makes you appreciate each season more, when you get to really experience all four seasons. Did you guys have the ice storm then, yesterday?

JD:

Down here?

Laura:

Yeah.

JD:

No. We didn’t. It never got that cold. I think it was 33 degrees this morning when I took my daughter to track practice at 06:45 AM. She was hoping that it would get canceled, but it had to be below freezing in order for that to happen.

Laura:

Yeah. I just saw some parts of Texas, there was a bunch of ice storms. There was like ice all over the place.

JD:

Yeah. It’s kind of nasty. Well, enough of that. Lets get into talking about Filly Flair Boutique. Tell me about your origin story. How did this all come about? How did you get started with the business?

Laura:

I’ve been doing this for eight years now, which seems crazy. Makes me starting to feel a little old. I’m 30. Ten years ago, if someone would have told me this is my life, I would have thought that they were absolutely nuts, to be honest. I grew up on a farm. Still I’m married to a farmer. I love agriculture and that lifestyle. Got out of college. When I started I was 22. Got out of high school. I apologize, and didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. I went through a semester of college. Hated it. Was paying for it out of pocket and was like, “I can’t afford this.”

Eventually, I did some odd jobs and eventually ended up going back and running my Dad’s dairy farm. He had a fairly large dairy farm. I did like the herd hauls and managed the employees and worked with the cattle all the time, and I loved it. However, if any of you are in agriculture, you know that it is … If you’re actually in it, you know that it is not a high money making industry. You do it because you love what you do.

I also love horses, and I did a lot of … I was definitely a weekend warrior, rodeo in. I was not anything professional, by any means. But, I loved to do barrel racing, haul my horse around, but that was really expensive. I loved what I was doing, but didn’t have a ton of money. So I don’t know.

My Dad is wired just like me, so I get that from him, where I always am thinking of ideas. I think honestly that that’s just kind of being an entrepreneur is … Ten years ago I had no idea what was wrong with me and why I was different than my friends, because I always had all these dumb ideas that I was like … I should try this. I should try this. I didn’t have a lot of follow through. I think when you’re 20, you’re just really unaware of your … I was very unaware of … Like now, I’m very self aware, but I was not at 20 years old.

JD:

I think that’s fairly common though. Don’t beat yourself up. I was not very self aware at 20. I can guarantee you that.

Laura:

Probably honestly, didn’t even hardly know what that word really meant. So to realize that that’s just kind of how your brain is wired, and so while I was … I literally loved what I did. I just was always thinking of other ideas, and wanted to try things, and was like, “Gosh, it’s so expensive for me to haul to these rodeos, and I would love to make some extra money.” So I did a bunch of … I don’t know just browsing around online and found a couple of places where I could buy. At the time, blingy belts were super popular. They were in all the stores. They were in the Buckle. They were just really popular everywhere.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

I found a couple place where I could wholesale them, and I had hundreds of these rodeo girlfriends that we all went to the same places on the weekends, and I was like, “I could get the bulks way cheaper than the Western stores were selling them.” Same belts, and I’m like, “This is like I could make a little money. My friends would be happy. It’s a win-win.”

JD:

Right, right.

Laura:

But I knew right away that I wanted a website, so people could shop there versus online. Versus I didn’t have to be in front of them all the time. So I was honestly really scared of what my friends were going to think. So I spent a couple of months doing this. I set up my first website by myself. It was terrible. But I just … I just figured it out. I Googled it. It was free. I had no money. So I barely … I started the company with about $110 honestly, and I bought my domain, and purchased a little bit of jewelry and pre-ordered some products on my website to see if people would buy them.

Then I took some … and then a couple of bells. Because I thought, “Okay, well, I can do this.” So then anyway, I went to some rodeos and just started handing out cards and telling people, and it kind of just evolved really quickly.

JD:

That’s so awesome.

Laura:

So that’s my start in the short.

JD:

Yeah. So basically, you had this entrepreneurial drive. You didn’t even really know what that was. If you would bring up all the … Thrown out the ideas, if you’re like me, 95 percent of my friends look at me like I’m crazy, because I have an idea a minute.

Laura:

Yeah, my staff looks at me like that sometimes.

JD:

Well, because they have to implement. They know that oh my goodness, Laura comes up with another idea, then we got to go to work, right?

Laura:

Yes, so it’s like … Rain it in. Rain it in.

JD:

Very cool. So for those of you who don’t have a background or any kind of context, a dairy farm is one of the most demanding endeavors and I think in across … I mean it’s almost like fishing in the arctic, or those crazy Deadliest Catch fishing shows and stuff. Dairy, running a dairy farm, I have never run a dairy farm. We had a commercial cow calf operation ranch, but I had a lot of friends that work in the dairy business, and it’s up very early. The cows have to be milked twice a day, right?

Laura:

Three times a day.

JD:

Three times a day. You were milking them three times a day. Well, that’s like a whole-nother level. The cattle get sick, and the weather is …

Laura:

Yeah, it’s non-stop. Growing up we literally went on one vacation. Our vacation was to the fair. We showed cattles. So my background was very … We worked with our family. That was just part of what we did. We were … It was a family operation and work was just part of our lifestyle. It wasn’t a job. It was just what we did.

JD:

That’s right. But, back when the family vacation was going to the county fair, that was a big deal. Your family really looked forward to that I bet.

Laura:

Yes, we did. Oh, yeah. My sisters and I did, because we didn’t … We got to stay there all day.

JD:

Very cool. Well, I love it. I loved that you have that work ethic. Just it’s part of your DNA, right?

Laura:

It is. I will say that hands down. I would not be here today if I would not … It’s such a 180 from what I do. Considering I’m selling fashion trendy clothes, but it … I would not be here if I would not have grown up with that, and put in the time at the beginning that it took to really get something going. Because if you don’t have … There’s two ways to start a business. Time and work or money. I did not have money. So I had to hustle really hard.

JD:

Well, that’s awesome. So I’m going to jump into some business stuff, and then I’d like to have you fill in a little bit of color as we go, but what are you doing right now? What seems to be working really well as far as attracting new customers? What’s bringing good, great, new customers into your business?

Laura:

We still have pretty good luck with Facebook ads. They’ve changed a little bit. But I feel like right now it’s kind of an … I don’t know if omni channel is the right word, but it’s like in the last year customers have really went from you could have one touch point with them and get them to convert versus they need to see you in three or four different places. So it’s kind of a combination. It’s the funnel, honestly. I think in sales, that funnel has always been around. But it has really become the main way to get new people. They really have to … They trust you. They know you and have to see you multiple times, because there is so much content being pushed in front of people non-stop all day.

So I guess I don’t know if I should have … I said that correctly in the beginning. It’s honestly the whole funnel. You really have to be able to have multiple touch points with that person to get them to convert as a new customer.

JD:

Right. I was interviewing Sabir Samerkant, who runs e-commerce for vendor media Gary Vaynerchuk. Yeah, and it’s so cool that you brought up omnichannel, because it’s one of the things that he talked about in that you have to be somewhat ubiquitous. Meaning you feel like even as a small brand, that to your customer, to your prospect, that you really are everywhere. Even brick and mortar. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook of course. Just everywhere and it can be a little bit daunting how do you think about that when the pressure is to be ever present? In front of your customers, not always in a salesy way, but just that you’re there. How do you tackle that with a business that even though you’ve got several employees, how many employees do you have right now?

Laura:

There’s about 20.

JD:

20. That’s awesome. But still, limited resources, right? Just because you have 20 employees, doesn’t mean everybody’s sitting around trying to figure out how to do social hosting. How do you think about then? How do you lead that effort with your team?

Laura:

I don’t know. To start, I don’t ever know if I feel … I am driven by chaos, to be honest. Oh, that’s what I was going to say. So sorry, I’m jumping all over here. I feel like it’s really important for people touching on what you said about it is … I don’t know if it’s daunting to me, but it is really important and I think small business owners especially forget it, because they’re like, “I don’t want to be tacky. I don’t want to feel like I’m shoving my product down my customer’s throat.” Look, if you’re not posting a lot all over, they’re never going to see you at this point.

Or they’re not going to remember you in two seconds. We’ve talked about that internally. We even went back and forth before. Gosh, are we being too pushy? Should we send more than one email a day? Should we post more than this many times a day? If you don’t, most … There are a small … Yeah, you’re going to have a one percent that’s like, “I get too many emails.” Or whatever. But most people they are not going to see you, if you don’t do it that much. So I really want to … I want to encourage other business owners that it feels sometimes like you’re being a little pushy sales, but you’re not. Because there’s so much content out there, that you have to be in front of your customers that much.
For them to see you once.

JD:

It’s like you have to be on the offensive. There’s so much noise out there. It kind of stinks that it’s that way, that you really have to be aggressive, but like you said, if you don’t you’re not even going to cut through the clutter, cut through the noise.

Laura:

No, you’re not. You know what? It doesn’t. It doesn’t stink. To me it says that now on you have to be better.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

It shows to me that … I feel like it raises the bar in the game, and it really separates people that really want to do this, and do well for their customers versus they’re just trying to make a quick buck. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with making a quick buck. That was all I was after in the beginning. But that’s when you have to decide. Is this a hobby for a little bit or do I really want to grow a brand and a company?

It’s an ongoing process. We’re not perfect. Honestly it’s kind of a day by day thing. We watch … First of all, you have to have analytics set up, so and if you are sales company, you should be looking at those every day. Seeing what’s working. You can’t be pushing things on a bunch of different channels and not tracking and knowing what’s working. So that’s how we handle it is we go back in and say, “Did that work?” Sometimes this literally day by day. If we have a huge spike or we’re slow, it’s like, “What’s not working or what is working?”

Then we need to do more of that or try something different.

JD:

Right. Well, back to add a little bit of an exclamation point to what you said about posting and being ever … You’re trying to be out there in front of your customers, in front of prospects. One of my favorite things that Zig Ziglar said is he said that shy sales people have skinny kids. I’ve always said internally with our organization that shy marketers have skinny kids. If you are shy, about what your selling, you’re just not going to eat.
It’s … You just got to be out there, right?

Laura:

I love Zig Ziglar. I have loved hims since I was probably 19 years old, which is another weird thing for a 19-year-old kid who wasn’t selling anything at the time.

JD:

Do you remember him saying that in some of his books and stuff?

Laura:

Yes. Oh, yes.

JD:

Good, good. So how do you stay grounded? In life. You’ve got … How many kids do you have?

Laura:

I have two.

JD:

Okay, and they’re little girls, correct?

Laura:

No, I have a little girl and a little boy. I have a three-year-old … She’s three and a half, and then my little boy will be two in about two weeks.

JD:

Nice. Yeah. How do you stay grounded with … 20 employees. You’re buying awesome clothing pieces to sell. You’re getting in merchandise, photography, photo shoots, models, all of that. Looking at analytics. How do you keep it all together?

Laura:

I don’t know if there’s a real … I went to a seminar a couple of years ago that talked about work-life balance, and this gal, I will never forget this, said that she thinks work-life balance, especially for mums is like a magical unicorn and it doesn’t really exist. You have to decide that one day you’re going to cheat your kids and the next day you’re going to cheat work and you just need to be present where you’re at, and be okay with that.

JD:

That’s so good.

Laura:

So … and I think there’re seasons for everything. That’s something I’ve really learned. So okay, if we’re going to be launching a new website, or we’re not. We’ve already done that a couple of times. But when you’re in a season of this is happening, and we have a timeline. Or when you’re in the season of launching a business, or launching a new product, those are seasons, and when you have those seasons, it’s going to be more work than normal.

I think you have to be okay with that in knowing that, and then once that season has passed, you make up for it. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to being balanced, but as far as staying grounded, I never take for granted what I have ever. I, every day I still can’t believe this is my life. Every day the people I work with keep me grounded, because they work so hard for this, and it’s not theirs. That means … Sometimes it blows my mind. So I’m really thankful for that, because I could not do this by myself.

JD:

Oh, it sounds like you have a great team around you. As far as if I were to get down into some tactical things, in your business, what percentage of your sales are coming for paid channels and what’s coming kind of organically, and what’s coming from email marketing and how do you look at those three channels?

Laura:

I don’t know if I’ll break down exact percentages from each sales channel. 60 percent every month of our customers are returning, which is awesome, and we never want to be below that rate, because at this point in our business we’re really trying to build a brand, and build relationships with those customers. So we do that in a lot of different ways. But I think as a minimum, if you want to continue to grow with … You always need 15 percent in my opinion, is a good number for new advertising, no matter where you’re spending that.
If it’s SEO, PPC, Facebook Ads, so that’s kind of the goals. You know that 15 percent for sure to be of sales, to be coming from those channels. That’s awesome. You said 60 percent of your monthly returning are returning customers?

Laura:

Yes.

JD:

That’s awesome.

Laura:

It is.

JD:

That’s a really healthy business.

Laura:

It is.

JD:

Good for you.

Laura:

It’s taken a while to get to that point. It wasn’t always like that.

JD:

Right. Now you said that you … I read something that you jump into … Well, let me ask it in this order. So I read something somewhere that you fired your advertising agency. Is that accurate?

Laura:

I did. A couple of years ago.

JD:

Okay. Do you run everything in-house now?

Laura:

So yeah, that went … The company that I fired was gosh going on two and a half years ago now. We do have … We do work with an agency. We actually just started a couple of months ago. Mainly SEO, just because that is such a beast, and I think it’s really important to just keep the back-end of your website clean, whether it’s … There’s so many things that go into that, back links, tagging, just there’s a ton of things. Just the house of your business as a whole, whether you’re actually working on keywords is a whole-nother deal, but just to have that natural organic rankings up there is really important. So we do have someone but as far as Facebook and ads, we do that in-house now.

JD:

Nice. Are you kind of the leader of that effort? Have you delegated that off or are you?

Laura:

I love it and … but I have delegated the majority of it off. I’m still on Facebook ads every day. But I cannot properly … I don’t have the time to properly manage it. So one of my gals here is awesome and she does a really good job. We’ve kind of learned it together. I think when you get to a certain size in your business, you have to be okay with … We don’t have an exact percentage but knowing, “Okay, I’m going allot this dollar amount or this percentage of sales to go to trial and error.” Because social media’s changing so quickly, especially in the … Facebook and Instagram advertising market.
You have to be willing to throw some dollars out there to try. If you’re at that level. If you’re starting now and you don’t have any … If you’re not … If you don’t have a profitable business model yet, I would not recommend that. But I think it’s really important to do that. I have honestly loved getting to learn that, because it was … So last year we had a record year and it was amazing, because it was so gratifying to be able to bring that back in-house and know that those sales came from us. We weren’t just “farming that out” to an ad.
There’s nothing wrong with advertising companies. They can help a ton of business and I think there’s a time and a place for them. But when you get to a certain size, and some people just don’t like to do it. That’s fine too. But I … It was so awesome to know that we had control. When we didn’t have sales, I was going to them being like, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” I just had to believe whatever they were telling me. So for me to spend … We totally like … I mean we … It hurt bad when we pulled out from them in 2016. But I needed to get back in and learn the fundamentals of my business.
Really track. Who is my customer? Where are they coming from? Just really learn about tracking and creating good ads and what that looks like.

JD:

Are you … Have you heard of a company called wicked reports?

Laura:

I have not. But I’m putting it in my notes.

JD:

Yeah. So Scott Desgrosseilliers is the founder and owner of Wicked Reports, and since you’re kind of a tracking geek, and I say that very affectionately, it might be something for you to look into and one of the things that Wicked Reports does and this is not really an endorsement for them, even though he’s wicked smart, and I think their company is solid. That they really track first visit. So whereas a lot of Facebook and Google and everything is tracking a last click attribution or the attribution windows only so long. 28 days or whatever.

Wicked Reports, and there’s probably other services out there, but what that allow you to do is look at your lead source, your cohort, where they came from, and even though the cost to converting them, for example, might be really high, it also tracks the lifetime value of that cohort. It’s just the … I think it’s the world that we live in. When we started, we could buy a Facebook buyer for $7.

Laura:

Yeah.

JD:

Now we can’t. So the more expensive the front-end conversion cost, the more precise and the smarter that we need to become as e-commerce store owners in building that lifetime value soon, but then also building upon it over time and being able to track that. Because not all leads are the same. Some are expensive, but they might spend 2,500 with you in a year. Or in your case, I don’t know what a great LTB is.

Laura:

For sure. I think that is one of the really valuable and I know in the last two years that’s why. I think that might be evolving a little bit now. But I know that’s why Facebook was so valuable for running ads, because they were able … I mean you might have had to spend more to acquire that customer, but they had already done the work of figuring out the customer spend, and the value of what customers benefited your business more.

JD:

Right. Very cool. So if you were to say in a sentence, what’s the best part of your business, what would that be?

Laura:

That’s a really good question. The best part of my business is being able to be myself and be creative and do what I want honestly.

JD:

That’s awesome.

Laura:

It’s amazing. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s not like it comes full circle when you’re also responsible for everything, but I joke with my husband. I’m like, if this server doesn’t work out, I’m ruined. I could not go work a job for someone else.

JD:

I’m completely unemployable. I am … Yeah, I make a really bad employee.

Laura:

It’s not that I don’t work hard, but I just got … Like I said, I just got too many ideas.

JD:

Uh-huh (affirmative). That’s so good. So you would value autonomy. Being able to do what you want when you want, how you want. You work hard, but you value autonomy a lot, right?

Laura:

Yes. I work a million hours, but to know that I can … Today I took my son to the doctor this morning, and I had lunch with them and my parents and got here at noon today.

JD:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Laura:

But I worked on picking out tile from new warehouse till 11:30 last night, which is fine. I loved it. You know what I mean? But yeah, I love that I get to decide … If I want to … When I want to put in more, I can. I’m helping to make my business more.

JD:

That’s right.

Laura:

I haven’t been able to do that, so yeah. For sure.

JD:

The flip side of that coin, what’s the most frustrating thing about your business?

Laura:

The most frustrating thing about my business. I feel like everything not … I don’t want to be like the positivity queen, but I feel like everything is how you look at it. So either I can choose to look at something super frustrating or choose to look at something as an opportunity to improve my business or make myself better. I mean don’t get me wrong, advertising and the market of being … of all of that can be super frustrating but at the same time, it can, “Okay, well, we need to be better about overdoing and it makes … It forces us to be better business owners.”

So I don’t know, I think there’s a lot of things like that that I think I could look at as frustrating, but I don’t think are frustrating if I don’t choose to look at them that way, and so I honestly I’m sorry. I don’t know if I have an answer for that. I don’t know if I feel like … There’s nothing that sticks out to me like, “This is so frustrating in my business.” Nothing.

JD:

Yeah. Well, it speaks volumes to your employees. You sit, take them out for dessert or something today, because if the …

Laura:

I heard at the National Margarita they actually, so we might have to do something here at the end of the day.

JD:

Okay. Because most business owners, even though we love employees. We love our employees, generally if they’re honest, they will say, “Doggone, some days managing my employees is just really frustrating thing about my business.” But good for you, you must have had …

Laura:

Yes, it is never ending. But at the same time, you can’t grow without them. So you can choose … That was one thing. I think the reason I don’t … I mean I have a gal that does a lot of the HR, so she deals a lot more in the like, “I’m going to be late” all that kind of day-to-day stuff then I do, but growing up in the dairy farm, my dad, he’s old-school farmer, and he did employees. There’s no nice way to put it. He just hated having to … No one ever did things the way he liked.

He always looked at his employee cost as an expense and not a benefit. All I could think- I don’t know why, but I always saw it different growing up that … Well, we wouldn’t be able to have a farm this size, if we didn’t have people to knock the cows.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

Yeah. You got to take it with a grain of salt.

JD:

That’s very good. Well, you probably, like I did, when we got a hired man, I was like, “Sweet. I’m not going to have to do that job now.” That’s probably why you saw it a little bit differently.

Laura:

Yes, yeah, and that’s for sure. Well, and it is funny, because I would have never dreamed … When you’re down … I started, I ship packages out of my basement until one in the morning, and my friends would be at the bar. Now to be this size and to still … It’s just weird, because a) I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel like people say. Oh, you’re so big. Well, no. I don’t feel- I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel any different, but … Also, it’s funny because I would never thought that I think I have more work and more responsibility now.

JD:

Right. Yeah, that’s very cool.

Laura:

This is different. Different work.

JD:

Yeah. Absolutely. That’s the nature of growing is you need to delegate and move up to bigger opportunities and bigger problems.

Laura:

Yup.

JD:

I think. When you think about attracting great customers, what are some of the things that you’ve tested over the years as far as converting them. Once they’re on your site or all the different ways to get them back to your site after they abandoned the cart or bounced? Obviously there’s re-marketing and re-targeting. Is there anything creative? I think that you’re running Willio I think on your site, if I looked and saw that correctly.

Laura:

Yeah.

JD:

Or at least have it installed. Can you talk to me about kind of some technology or gift with purchase or free ship? What are some things that you’re using and have used? Maybe some things that you’ve tried to get better conversions that really flopped, that are kind of best practices or really well-promoted out there in e-commerce circles? Can you give me a little bit of color around all that?

Laura:

Yeah, and I think I’m going to throw this into two parts, because I think there’s two sides of converting a customer. One is the technology side. So what are you using to get their information. So it goes back to the funnels. So if I’m target- Throwing a Facebook ad up there, well, I don’t just want them to click and go to my website without being able to retain any of their information, because then I’ve just wasted a bunch of money. But once I have their email addresses, what am I doing?

If yeah, I might still send them product retargeting, but what am I doing with those email addresses, and after a certain point, making sure that they’re in a system. Shopify does a really good job of letting you break out. Okay, these people will … These people have never purchased. They’ve been on the site for 60 days or whatever. So that’s really helpful, but also, honestly lasher, what was pivot-able to my business was putting my face in front of my company.

Always something that I thought would be nice but it takes a lot of time, and as a woman you really have to get out of your own head, because you’re super self-conscious about just being out there all the time. But when you really start developing relationships with people, they want to buy from you.

JD:

Right.

Laura:

It makes way more of a difference. You’re providing them value without asking for something first, whether that’s … We do it in a form of a Facebook group, and I don’t know where groups will be in six months quite frankly, but right now, it works really well, and people are … I’m friends with my customers, and maybe before they’ve ever purchased. Some people are a part of that group for months, and then they’re like, “I’ve been a part of this group.” And I watch that I talk to our customers and they post pictures of themselves and the clothes, and now I finally … I feel like I’m a part of a family.
Or now I’m really … I’m so excited I just made my first purchase. It really … and I think that is so important especially with all the garbage that there is out there, and I mean garbage in the sense of just so much content.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

With all of that content out there right now, you have to do something to set yourself apart, and what makes you different from every other business in whatever market you are in, is you, and the personal connection that you can provide to your customers. The value that’s your part, and it’s knowing your customers. I have become a better advertiser, buyer, because I know my customers better too. It works both ways, but honestly, if I could … It changed my business last year.

JD:

So talk to me. Peel the layer off the onion just a little bit. So you’ve got over a million fans on your Facebook page. I didn’t get a chance to look into your group or join it or ask to join or anything. It’s probably like, “Dude, dudes are excluded.”

Laura:

Probably. Yeah, when I was like, “Accept all,” all the time.

JD:

So are you at liberty to share with me how many people you have in your group and how often you’re in there? Do you respond to everybody?

Laura:

So I’m in … So we probably have, I don’t know, 35,000 right now. So it’s not near as big as our page, but …

JD:

That’s awesome. I mean there’s a lot of business that don’t have a Facebook page that big.

Laura:

Yeah, and I’ve learned that it’s … I’ve definitely learned some things about … At first I really wanted to grow the group really fast, and then I learned that it’s quality over quantity. I didn’t want the group to become something that’s a nuisance for people too. I really want this group to be a place where people can engage with each other, and it’s really become a community. I’m in there every day. I definitely don’t answer everyone questions, because I can’t. They get lost.

But a couple of our staff members are in there. So they’ll answer some questions too, but honestly, there’s a ton of customers that answer each other’s questions. Or there’s … someone will post a picture today. Has anyone bought the shirt yet? Then someone will be like, “I got mine in the mail yesterday.” They’ll put the picture of themselves wearing it in a selfie. It’s just it’s really cool that way. But I try and be super active in it. I have to be. That’s part of it.

JD:

Well, so something that you might want to do. That seems … That sounds like I’m always promoting other episodes, but I think that Anthony’s will launch in the next couple of weeks, but I interviewed Anthony Megg, and he’s co-founder of Live Bearded, livebearded.com. They have an amazing story, and I think that you’re going to really find value in it, but I’ll give you the cliff notes. Because you’re already doing what they’re doing also. They wanted to start a beard grooming products business. So they did some things … They did a free plus shipping product, a beard comb, and they got some initial customers. They got about 10,000 of them.

They didn’t make any money on them. But they had connection, right? The buyers identified themselves of having a beard, because they bought a beard product. They invited all of them into a Facebook group, and they spent all of 2016 pretty much the full year for sure the first two-thirds of the year really learning what guys liked about beard grooming products that are out there already and what they didn’t like. If there were fragrances that they would like to see that didn’t or consistencies or whatever, whatever. They were just totally doing R&D market research.

Laura:

Cool.

JD:

They had an intimate group like what you’ve built now. They knew these guys, and it was community. They’re brothers.

Laura:

Yeah.

JD:

Then they launched pretty much the first part of 2017, and it’s hockey stick growth, and they’re like they are brothers. They’re just continuing to grow that thing and grow that thing, but they have this base, this hardcore base of bearded dudes that look out for one another, and they had a live event where they brought 120 or 150 of them together and just had a party. Some of them traveled from Ireland or Scotland. One of the guys did.

Laura:

Oh, that’s cool.

JD:

But isn’t that cool?

Laura:

Yeah.

JD:

That’s how … That’s what you’re doing. That’s what they’re doing to set yourselves apart. It’s what it takes, and it frankly is what Unilever or the Gap or whomever, Athleta, however you say it, that’s probably … They’re just too big. They can do some cool stuff, but they’re not … You’re not going to get to meet the founder of Athleta.

Laura:

Right. It really is amazing and pivotal. All of a sudden, you’ll see your customers. If we do have someone fairly new in the group and something’s wrong with their order or something, they post in there. Before I see it, there’ll be 10 people that’ll be like, “Oh, they’ll take care of this for you.” Or like, “You just need to call the customer service number, and they’ll get …” They’re backing us. It’s just amazing, and it truly has changed how I look at my business in the sense of it’s more than I’m just selling a product. They’re real people. Just like they connect with me, I connect with them, and I care more.
Because there are real people behind the products that I’m selling to them. It matters more to me that they are getting a good product, that it fits right.

JD:

Yeah. They had little girls.

Laura:

Yes.

JD:

They had little boys. They have … Yeah, that’s cool. So good. Man, if you can just take that one takeaway that just changed your business, right?

Laura:

It did. I hope so. Yeah.

JD:

Good for you. So in addition … I mean I think I know the answer, but is there anything else that you have done in the last eight years that has really changed getting people to come back to your store. Like are you really tracking whether somebody hasn’t been back for 120 days, 180 days, and you really go on an all-out blitz after them?

Laura:

Yes, we do.

JD:

Okay. Talk to me about how you really get people coming back to the store.

Laura:

We do that all through email and record when they stop. They get put on a list. Once they hit a certain point. Okay, they haven’t shopped for 60 days. What are we going to do. Are we offering them a discount? Are we sending them a certain item? Then that goes up to about 120 days, and then we offer them kind of an insane discount to try and see if they come back, and if they don’t, then honestly we usually get to push them off our list, because I don’t want … It’s quality over quantity, and a) I’m paying every time I send emails out, and b) I … They’re not coming back.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

Quite frankly. If it’s been that long and I’m about giving stuff away to them, they’re not coming back, so yeah, we do have a sequence of we try and follow through email is how we do that now. There’s probably a better way, but that’s how we do it right now.

JD:

Oh, I think it’s fantastic. What are you using as far as your email service provider?

Laura:

We use MailChimp.

JD:

MailChimp, good.

Laura:

We looked into a lot of others, and we were on … Oh, gosh, what’s the name of it? Active campaign for a little while, actually, and it just didn’t work for us. We just needed something in … Sometimes, another thing that I’ve really learned in over the course of eight years from going from nothing to pretty big, is don’t let people tell you that you’re too big for a certain thing. You know what I mean? Sometimes simple is still better. You don’t need every bell and whistle to really get the job done and do it correctly. Just like …

I’ve done that with a lot. I was on Magento for a couple of years, and I even had … I mean it’s several people. Don’t go back to Shopify. You’re too big. Now Shopify has changed. They have plus and all that, but sometimes if you have a simple business model, just because you have high dollars does not mean you need a million things that are more expensive and are supposed to be the best of the best, because it might not work better. If what you’re doing is working, why change it?

To some extent. Does that make sense? Active campaign was kind of the same thing, it was … We could get ridiculously targeted and see if they … Which … It was so much segmentation, email, which was awesome. But it was way more work. We had to build templates all the time just to send out daily new arrival emails, and when we switch to MailChimp, our deliver … Our deliverability rates went up like … I mean it was ridiculous. 30 percent?

JD:

That’s awesome.

Laura:

Which is huge when you’re talking [300,000 00:39:19] on a list.

JD:

Yeah. Well, I think simple is better is the best thing that you could have said, and …

Laura:

I know. We looked into Klaviyo. I know a lot of people love it, but I’m like, “I just really have no problem with MailChimp and what we’re doing right now with that.”

JD:

Yeah. Quite frankly, there’s learning new, tools and learning new systems, and learning new things. I remember we had … We implemented an inventory tracking program and I pretty much had to hire somebody full-time to run it. We never got the support that we wanted. We never got the deep integration that we wanted; it never really worked. We spent six months and hundreds of man hours. God knows how much that really cost our company. Finally I just got so frustrated I’m like … I’m killing it. I went.

We went back to managing inventory the way that we did in the very beginning, and it was super easy. Just took a whole lot of stress off of us. Same thing with the applications. We broke 60 different apps while we were really growing, because it couldn’t handle the volume and stuff, and we’re not growing at that level now. The app store’s gotten more solid and Shopify and I think things have kind of weeded out a lot of the apps that weren’t really stable. But simplicity is so important. It’s so important.

Laura:

It is. When we were trying to set that up, the gal that does the … My email campaigns, she spent three months just trying to set up all of these different.

JD:

All the sequences? Yeah.

Laura:

Yes.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

It was like, “This is ridicule … ” Just, yeah, at some point, you just kind of have to decide. Is this worth it? Or I know I have time and money into this, but is this … If something’s not working, it’s just … Sometimes you just got to let it go.

JD:

Right. I heard it said the other the difference between most people and an entrepreneur is a really good entrepreneur knows when to cry Uncle. Even though we want to have that pig-headed discipline and determination and never quit.

Laura:

No.

JD:

There are things that we test and is just like, “That’s clearly a loser. Move on.” Having the … I’m not good at that. I don’t want to let go. It’s hard. It’s hard to admit defeat or … But you got to live to find another day, right?

Laura:

Yup. You do, and at some point you can only fight that battle so long and if you’ve been doing something a certain way for months and it’s not working, even if you have a bunch of money tied up in it, it’s just … You just got to … That’s honest, and I’m not trying to dis any program, but when we … Magento, after a while it was just like, I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t care what happens when we switch. If I’m supposedly too big, but we just need something simpler. I can’t …

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

Can’t do it. So …

JD:

Yeah. I ain’t doing it. Have you seen that gal on Facebook? I ain’t doing it.

Laura:

Yes, I have.

JD:

So are you on Plus? Are you on Shopify Plus? Or are you on …

Laura:

Yes, yeah, yup.

JD:

That’s awesome. I’ve been very happy with them. They’re fantastic.

Laura:

Yeah, too. We literally just a week ago had our … Maybe two weeks ago had our one-year anniversary, and it was … It’s been awesome.

JD:

Nice. Well, so you’re building a new warehouse. You mentioned staying up to one o’clock the other day, picking out tile. Tell me about that.

Laura:

Yeah, last night I was looking at some tile samples and flooring samples. Yeah. We’re building a new warehouse right now. It’s 20,000 square feet. It’s going to be pretty big. I’m pretty excited about it, and it’s going to have … We’re going to … It’s kind of cool. So right now our warehouse is about 40 minutes from our storefront in Sioux Falls. We’re going to actually put a little storefront on this warehouse, and I think it’ll be a really great way for our customers to kind of be able to come out and experience … They won’t get to see in the warehouse, but it’s connected.

They’ll be able to do … Pick up their orders at the store, and just kind of really tying that omnichannel a little more, so to speak. Yeah, we’re building that. They literally … It’s so crazy how long that process takes. I mean I looked for even just the ground or … I started looking for warehouses and there wasn’t anything. Just the grounds, took six months just to find. But so that’s been over a year and a half process honestly.

JD:

Yeah.

Laura:

But the steel structure is standing, so they’re getting ready to pour cement in the next couple of weeks probably. So the goal is end of May to have that done, so it’s pretty crazy.

JD:

How fun has it been to be able to lay out the thing just exactly how you wanted. This is going to be the break room. This is going to be offices. This retail. This is how the flow of the warehouse is going to go. Yeah.

Laura:

I can’t … I honestly every day now when I’m driving by that thing, I cannot believe that is mine, honestly. We have went … So our warehouse right now is nice. It’s probably a little under 10,000 square feet. So we’re doubling our space, but it’s an old rundown building, and even where my girl shipped, they have no windows. So I’m definitely going above and beyond just building the little warehouse, but every point, up until then, I think when you start something with nothing you’re so … At least for me, I was just more worried about building a solid foundation than adding everything. All the fancy things, amenities.

All of the extras that you didn’t need. I’m a very basic, lean … I run a lean operation, but I’ve never … So I’m always done that. I’ve always cut corners on things, and so I just cannot believe we’re finally … We’re going to have a massive studio to shoot in. Especially for my team. Just for them to have a ton of space, we literally have one closed office door in our warehouse right now. Just I can’t even believe that this is happening honestly, but yeah, I feel like it’s just been … It’s going to be amazing for the team, and I think when you get to a certain size, you have to realize that moral of doing something awesome for your team just as much as yourself is more important than a lot of things.

JD:

Absolutely. Had you had to tell your husband that there’s no parking of tractors or implements under the red iron building?

Laura:

We have had that conversation before. Way before I was building. He’s like, “You could just … If it’s too big, I could just park myself.” Oh, no.

JD:

That’s funny.

Laura:

There is clothes in this warehouse. That is it.

JD:

That’s good, straight on that, right?

Laura:

Yeah.

JD:

Well, this has been so fun Laura. I get the sense that you have really strong determination. You’re visionary, and I have no doubt that the future looks, is just going to be awesome for you. What would you say, if you had to put it into one word, it takes in order to do what you have done, in order to be successful in e-commerce today?

Laura:

Never quitting. Hands down.

JD:

Never quit.

Laura:

Because everything is going to change. You’re going to fail at some things. You’re going to … I think after you’ve been a business soul, I think the hardest part about … For me, so 2016 was not a great year, and when you have built something that was in the thousands percentage of growth rate year or year literally, and then to all the sudden have a year where you’re not growing and even going backwards from your sales, from the previous year, it’s really hard to be like, “What is happening?” Realize that that is a part of business. That is a part of … You’re out of that start-up phase.

Every business is going to have ups and downs. Every business. You have to decide what am I going to do to change what I’m doing to be better and make this better. You literally have to get pass that, and get out of your own head, and every day wake up and listen to something motivational, do some exercise- Seriously, it is all in your head of how you want to handle whatever situation you’re in.

JD:

Wow.

Laura:

You have to … I don’t care what business you’re in, that’s … You have to change your business model and not quit.

JD:

Awesome. I’m taking a note on that and my note is it’s seriously all in your head.

Laura:

It is. Since I’ve changed the outlook of … Gary V. Talks about that a lot, looking at the macro versus the micro. I think once you can get … It’s hard, especially if you are in the start-up, I understand. Because I’ve been there, where all you care about is today’s sales. I still care about that every day.

JD:

Well, you have to. You’re looking at it every day. What’s working what’s not.

Laura:

Yes, but at some point you still have to be big picture and go, “What? Where do I want to be in three years.” Even that big of a picture which is a lot in e-commerce today I feel like. And can change, but it still doesn’t mean you have to look … You have to look at macro.

JD:

That’s right. Very cool, Laura. If somebody wants to connect with you, what’s the best place to find you.

Laura:

Oh, honestly my Instagram.

JD:

Okay.

Laura:

Which is Laura Benson Official.

JD:

Okay.

Laura:

It’s Benson.

JD:

Benson.

Laura:

I get … My emails get a little over killed.

JD:

Very cool. Well, check out Fillyflair.com. That’s Fillyflair.com, and Laura, thank you so much. I wish you continued success, and I look forward to meeting you in person some time soon.

Laura:

Me too. Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored.

JD:

All right. Adios.