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John: If I just had to say one word, it’s “determination,” because I want to win, and I work around the clock.

Announcer: The biggest names in e-commerce. Hear our tricks of the trade, from tools and software, to strategies and growth hacks. Learn from the best and take your business to the next level.

JD: What are the actual tactical things that you’re doing to attract people?

Announcer: Now your host, JD Crouse.

JD: Hello, and welcome back to E-Commerce in the Trenches. This is JD Crouse, and today I’m stoked to have John Dowdy with John, welcome to the show.

John: Well, it’s glad to be here. It’s going to be fun.

JD: It is going to be fun. Well, hey, tell me about Equinety. Give me a little bit of the background, how you got started, and kind of a spoiler alert for everybody listening, John is my first Equine-related e-commerce store owner that I’ve had on the show. It goes right back to my roots in rodeo, and ranching, and horses, and all of that stuff. We even have something else in common, which we’ll talk about a little bit later.
Tell me about how you got started in this business, John.

John: Well, thank you, and I think by you giving that introduction, a piece of your western came out when you said “roots.”

JD: Yeah. I know. My wife, my wife says-

John: “Let me tell ya. Tell y’all something right here.” Yeah.

JD: Well, my wife gets so frustrated with me because I call root beer “root beer.” She said, “No, no, no. It’s root beer.” It’s also a “crick,” not a creak. We constantly go back and forth.

John: Yes. Boy, you are western out there.

JD: I think I gave away my hillbilly roots.

John: That’s right. Yeah. What’s funny, when I’m at shows, and you’re around all these western cowboys, I will fall into the drawl. “Well, yes ma’am, I’ll tell you what.” You get into all that kind of stuff. But hey, it’s like a chameleon I guess, in some ways.

JD: Yeah. Absolutely.

John: Anyways, I digress on that. Equinety actually started back in 1998, as a human product. It’s an amino acid stack. It was developed by a British [inaudible 00:02:16] and Harvard-educated family physician up in Canada, and it was marketed to the 50+ crowd as an anti-aging youth formula. It’s still marketed that way today. In 2006, when I first learned about it, the company realized it had all the things that athletes are looking for. Recovery, stamina, the better, faster, stronger. They took the same youth formula, they just put a secondary label on it, and I had connections being in Southwest Florida, into Major League Baseball. I took it to a buddy of mine, and long story short on that, we had it certified for sport, so there’s no banned substances. They won’t test. Currently, it’s in all of Major League Baseball under the GHP Sport brand.
Then in 2014, we took the exact same formula, put it in a tub for horses, and called it Equinety, which is a combination of equine, infinity, and energy wrapped into one word. Interestingly enough, we take the same amount as a horse, or a dog, or an elephant. The reason is, is because this product is targeting the pituitary gland, which is roughly the same size in all mammals. About the side of a pea. One of the first things that we tend to notice on the human side is a really deep, sound sleep. The deep REM sleep that you just don’t get as you age. I think you and I might know something about that.

JD: Yes. I do.

John: But in the horse world, that’s taken off like gangbusters, and animals don’t know about placebo, so they either react or they don’t. Fortunately for us, being we’re very blessed, I mean, the transformation’s typically within a couple of days to a couple of weeks, especially by 30 days. Super shiny coat, more muscle. I mean, if you could see me right now, my coat is very shiny.
Anyway, that’s a little bit of the history on Equinety.

JD: Very cool. I told you when we chatted the other day that I felt like you had a bit of a Canadian accent, and so …

John: That’s right, eh?

JD: “Eh.” Exactly. You were actually … Did you work on the human side before you got involved, and then blew up Equinety?

John: Yes.

JD: Okay. Tell me a little bit about that.

John: Well, originally the company was set up as a network marketing company. It was set up that way until 2010, and there was some stuff going on in the company, and my business partner and I left in 2010. But before we left, we had them change their business model. We got them out of network marketing, and just went to direct to market company. It’s not too often in life where you come back to a company that you left and then purchase the company and keep rocking, and that’s kind of what we did. In 2012, we came back in the company and did some things, and then we brought Equinety out in 2014, and here we are today. Like I said, we are blessed to have a product that works like it does.

JD: That’s awesome. Talk to me … Our podcast is all about attracting, converting, and retaining great customers. On the attracting side, what would you say is one of, or a couple of the things that you have done over the last three years or so- a couple, three years- that has actually just blown up your business?

John: Well, being in the horse industry, and you can appreciate this being in the industry itself, but I’m sure it cross-pollinates into any industry. Anybody that’s been in the industry for any length of time, especially when we’re talking supplements, their automatic reaction is, “Oh my gosh. Here’s another elixir, or snake oil,” or whatever. Especially in the horse world, pretty much everybody tries everything there is, because their horse is the most important thing to them, and in a lot of ways it is the most important thing, because that’s what makes them the money, so they have to keep them healthy.

JD: A lot of times, they don’t eat, but the horse does.

John: Yes. That’s it. The owner will forego eating to make sure their horse does have food. That is absolutely a truth right there. One of the things that we did, because at the time, 2014, we were new to the market, just trying to figure things out, and although I grew up in Oklahoma, y’all, on a farm, milked cows- that was a handful, let me tell you that- but growing up in that world, on a farm, and now getting into this industry, nobody knows who you are. The thought was, “Okay, well, how do we even do this? Because nobody knows who we are. We don’t have any credibility, so how do we get credibility?” What we did with our company is we started giving away product.
Just we would give it away, and then what we did is, “We’re going to give you this.” And again, at the time, it had never been in the horse world, so we didn’t know what to even tell people to expect. But what we did know, it’s perfectly safe for the horse. “Here’s what we experienced on the human side, and because mammals are mammals, and cells are cells, there’s gotta be some correlation, so if you’ll do us a favor, we’re going to give you the product, and you just give us feedback.” Then what we started doing is getting testimonials. Now the testimonials, the third-party testimonials, we started using that as leverage to then sell the product.
In 2015, we had 30-day samples, and so we did a campaign on Facebook, and we gave away 200 of these 30-day samples. What we found was the conversion rate into a customer was 20%.

JD: Nice.

John: Which is just off-the-charts.

JD: Absolutely.

John: Yeah.

JD: Now, let me stop you.

John: Sure.

JD: Were you using any fancy contest software, like Contest Domination, or any of the other viral softwares? Or were you just simply capturing … Having them say something in a Facebook post? Or how exactly were you tactically executing on that giveaway?

John: This was simply finding people on the ground that … Oh, I’m sorry. We did a-

JD: On Facebook?

John: Yeah, on Facebook. On Facebook, what we did is we had somebody that kind of had some connections in the horse world. They did a lot of social media, and we had them kind of blast out, because they had their ambassadors online, and so we kind of leveraged her up a little bit and gave her some free product. It really comes down to who you know.

JD: Right.

John: With anything that you’re doing, you can try to do it by yourself, and you can work hard, or there’s a book by Ries and Trout, a marketing book that goes back years ago, maybe in around the 90s, and it’s called Horse Sense. What they talk about in this book is you can try to do things yourself, and work hard, and do everything, but otherwise, and it’s funny we’re talking about Equinety, because it’s called Horse Sense, but it’s like, “or you can just find a horse and jump on it and ride it.” Actually, I just started reading this book not long ago, but the interesting part and what I took out of that was, you can work hard on your own, or you find people that can help you get there. I mean, you look at any successful business, and none of those businesses happened with one person. It took a team of people, finding the right people to partner up with, and that’s kind of what we did with getting the word out there.
It’s funny, because this gal, actually because she specialized in social media, she approached us initially. She says, “You know, your Facebook page could use a little help.”

JD: Don’t you love it? Don’t you love it when people [crosstalk 00:10:16]?

John: I’m like, “What are you talking about?” Yeah. I’m like, “We have 72 people, and that’s up from last week, because we were at 69 last week, so we are moving here.” She’s just like, “No. You don’t have a lot of credibility.” I said, “We do have credibility. We are up.” We were going back and forth like this. She really helped get our Facebook page with credibility. We started getting the testimonials. We started giving out samples, and so it was a combination of all of that, and it took about a year before we really started getting some nice traction, but yeah. That’s kind of how that went down.

JD: Nice. Very cool. You moved from 30-day samples to … You did something else. I believe it was a 30-day challenge? Talk to me about that.

John: Yeah. We had our 30-day samples out there for quite a while. We knew we had a conversion rate of 20%, which I’m guessing the average in the industry might be 1% or 2%, if you’re going to run a campaign to find out if it’s successful. If it’s a 1% or 2%, then hey, you’ve got something. Well, we knew we had a home run with 20% conversion, and so as the year went by, and this is now going into 2016 towards the end, and coming in around to the beginning of this year.
Everybody kept telling us that … We would do outbounds to our customers and ask them about the product, and these kinds of things. Consistently, people were telling us, “Oh, we noticed a difference within a couple days to a couple weeks.” We’re like, “Really?” What we did is we went down to 15-day samples, and although I knew the feedback was strong at a couple days to a couple weeks, I didn’t completely, 100% believe, or wasn’t comfortable, rather. I know that it works, but I just wasn’t 100% convinced, because if you have somebody … If I can talk to somebody and give them the education on it, then it’s no problem, but somebody willy-nilly that just takes a 15-day sample, well how can you really tell that it just works in 15 days? Especially if they’re not in tune with their horse.
What I did on Facebook is I came up with the Equinety 30-day challenge. I did a buy one, get one free on the 15-day samples, so I still gave them the 30 days, they’re getting some for free, and we’re breaking even. We didn’t make no money on that. Sometimes we’d even lose a dollar or two, but I already knew what our conversion rates were, and at the same time, in early 2016, around April I guess it was, I started strategically finding people on the ground that had databases. They were horse trainers. They had lots of horses, or they were boarders. You know, had large barns, or a circle of influence. Massage therapists, dentists, chiropractors, and yes, they do exist in the horse world.

JD: They absolutely do. I was thinking about a couple things. You said “boarders,” and just to clarify for those of you who aren’t around horses, we’re not talking about hoarders, where people store a lot of crap.

John: Yeah. Trailer parks. Yeah, that’s right.

JD: We’re talking about boarding horses. There’s people that have big barns, and then that’s all they do, is professionally take care of horses. Absolutely. There’s horse massage therapists, there’s horse chiropractors, there are horse dentists, and actually, horse dentists really, really help horses. Because if they have hooks, and ramps, and all this kind of stuff in their mouth, they can’t effectively … Their mouth can’t move kind of side to side in that circular grinding motion to consume their feed and get the best nutritional value out of it. Yeah, it’s crazy, right? All these little subcultures inside of different verticals.

John: It really is. I’m waiting for a horse that has braces, but I haven’t seen one of those yet.

JD: Yeah.

John: Anyways, what I would do is I would strategically find people that way, and a lot of that would come through word-of-mouth as well. What we found there when … I would sell wholesale to them, and then I would also give them samples based on however many big tubs they ordered. Our large tub is $99.99 for 100 servings, so it’s a dollar a day, which is super cheap in the horse world.

JD: Absolutely.

John: However many big tubs they bought, I would match it or do half that amount with the samples. Well, what we found with these circles of influence on the ground is their conversion rates were 90% to 100%, which is just off the charts.

JD: Wow.

John: But they’ve got the credibility, and again, we’ve got a product that works. Business year to date is up over 600% compared to this time last year, and it’s cranking.

JD: Wow. Wow. Congratulations.

John: Yes. Well, and I’ll tell you what, with the guys over there at Revenue Conduit and Unific, they were really able to implement a lot of things behind the scenes through Infusionsoft. This is how I’m able to find all these stats out, because without that, you really have nothing. How do you do any kind of measuring of any kind? They were really able to do a lot of neat things, and so we’re able to go back and re-target specific people, and do all kinds of things, and lifetime customer value of over $200, $300 per customer, and so it’s quite amazing to see all those kind of stats.

JD: I want to circle back and just tie a nice ribbon around it. One of the best things that’s worked for you is these giveaways, and actually the cool thing about a product like yours that actually works, if you can just get the product in the hands of the consumer, i.e. the horse owner who will then feed it to the horse, the product will … The proof is in the pudding, and you have built-in stickiness, as we call it in marketing world, and so you’re using giveaways on Facebook. You’re actually reaching out to influencers that have a circle of influence, getting product in their hands, selling to them wholesale, and the more people that get their horses on it, the more testimonials that are flowing in. It’s a wonderful way to attract, and it leads directly into converting great customers who end up being evangelists for Equinety, and which increases lifetime value, and gets people coming back and reordering. That’s one of the things I love about a consumable products business that has strong transformation, that can actually happen.
I’ve been around nutritional supplements and that world, and it’s really dramatic if you can get a measurable or tangible, something you can feel or see result in under 30 days.

John: Yes.

JD: The fact that your product’s doing that is, what a blessing. What an amazing thing.

John: It really is. One of the other things that I did is, you lift the hood on this thing, and there’s a million wires going everywhere. But as you know, being in business for a long time, you don’t start off that way. A lot of times, you’re just trying to figure out, “Will it work? Does it sell?” You’re trying to figure out all the pieces, just step one.
Well, back in May of this year, we had had somebody kind of doing some Facebook advertising for us, and I had piddled around with Facebook advertising a little bit here and there, but I really enjoyed talking to people, and going into shows, and sharing the products and everything. But it costs a lot of money to do that, and as you know, you’re driving around to feed stores, and the challenge with feed stores is you walk into a store, and you’re like, “Okay. Here comes another sales guy.” I understand that, because I’m a sales guy, so I try to take a completely different approach, and most of the time I would just leave them with samples. I’d go, “I’m going to leave you this, and you know what? I’m going to give you … I’ll front you a tub, and if you sell it then you can pay me for it. If you don’t sell it, then you don’t owe me anything. And I’m going to give you a couple sample tubs, so I want you to strategically give these sample tubs to some people here in your area, and somebody’s going to come back and buy this tub.”
I’ve been able to pick up a lot of stores that way, because nobody, to my knowledge, does anything like that. But again, we know our product works, and so then what I did, I realized, “Oh my gosh. I’m spending massive amounts of time on the road.” A lot of these feed stores, they’re virtually impossible. “Oh, I forgot. I know the product’s still sitting here. I haven’t done anything with it.” You get into the user error aspect of it.
In May, I decided to take over. Just say, “Hey, what can I do with this Facebook advertising?” I had a $500 budget, and I blew through that in two days, but the sales were cranking, and I spent $500 and made like $1500. I’m like, “Holy cow. What is going on here?” I kept increasing the budget every day, every day, every day, and of course I ran out of inventory, but I had the highest sales month I had ever had. As I’m waiting for my inventory to come in, I do it again in July, and I ended up spending … The first month I spent $24,000, and then when I did it again in July I spent $34,000, and the sales were $58,000 to $60,000. I’m thinking, “Hey, this is a lot easier than spending time on the road, and I’m actually getting sales sitting right at my computer.” Not a bad deal there.

JD: Well, it’s the stuff infomercials are made out of, right? “John Dowdy sitting in his one-bedroom apartment in his underwear, selling $58,000.” Not that you have a one-bedroom apartment.

John: No, no.

JD: But it reminds me of those old infomercials. Late-night infomercials.

John: Yes. Yes.

JD: It’s what hooks a lot of people into doing e-commerce, but it’s a lot of friggin work, right?

John: Yeah. It absolutely it.

JD: I mean, you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, fall into this product. You’ve had a relationship with this product since ’98, ’97. I mean, a long time.

John: Yeah. 2006. Yup. 2006 when I came in, but yeah. It’s absolutely right. You look at it now, and you just tell the story now, it’s like, “Oh, well it took 11 years to be an overnight success.” That’s really what happened, because for two or three years, I wasn’t even involved in the company, and then I came back in. But it is one of those things. Well, I’ll wrap this up with the Facebook stuff.
A lot of times you don’t know why you’re doing things at the time that you’re doing it, but then you can always look back and connect all the dots. What came out of the Facebook was not only huge success, huge sales and everything else, but Facebook actually reached out to me last month and wanted to give me some free marketing advice and things, in tweaking my ads. I’m like, “Well, yeah. You know what? They should be reaching out to me. I just spent $34,000.” Right?

JD: Right.

John: It was such an interesting conversation over the last month with them, because they really went in, and there was no catch or anything. They truly helped me tweak the ads, and I’ll give you a prime example. I was just using static ads. Just an image, a before and after photo. What they did is they had me go into a carousel type ad, because what Facebook wants, they want interaction with the user, the end user. They don’t want it to look like an ad. The more time that the end user spends on your ad, the lower your cost per click goes, as one example.
Well, what happened, I implemented this right away, and I launched a campaign on September 3rd, and it’s created over 365 sales this month, just in one ad. My cost per click, which was 20, 30 cents, 35 cents a click, and again, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just putting stuff up there. My cost per click now is four to six cents per click.

JD: Wow.

John: My cost per acquisition, which was climbing. It was $30, $40, $50. I even had some that were up to $60 bucks. My thought there was, “Okay, well, I’m not really making any money, or very little money, but I’ll get them as a repeat customer,” so it’s kind of like a negative continuity thing. Just have to wait longer for the profit. But by doing the tweaks that they had me do was, okay, now my cost per acquisition is down to $20, $25 bucks, depending.

JD: That’s awesome.

John: Significantly, and so just this month, I’m going to spend $10,000 less, but my profit is still the same or better than what it was, just off one ad.

JD: It’s like giving yourself a $10,000 raise.

John: Exactly. Exactly. Going back to what you said, you just don’t wake up one day or fall off the turnip truck. It’s all of this stuff accumulates, and it’s surrounding yourself with the right people that you can learn from, and when you surround yourself with the right people, people love to share information, because they a lot of the times like to show how smart they are.

JD: Right.

John: But it’s kind of a bragging thing, or it’s just, you know. People genuinely like to share information, typically, and so that’s what I just try to do, is surround myself with the right people, and as long as every situation you get into is a win-win, then you should have no problems. It’s just people start taking advantage, then you probably need to reassess that relationship.

JD: That’s right. John, what would you say in all your years of business, all the different things that you’ve done, what is one of the biggest mistakes that you’ve made in business?

John: I would say … Now, this is my own personal battle that I have all the time. I actually believe people. Yeah. That’s me, right there.

JD: Doggone it. Oh, that really hit me. That’s good.

John: Yeah.

JD: That’s bit you in the butt, huh?

John: Oh. And of course my wife, who is my compass in all kinds of ways, we’ve been married now for almost 15 years, and she’s like, “John, there’s some flags going up here.” I’m like, “No, honey.” And of course I’ll justify, “Well, this has gotta happen, because this is, because they told me this.” I can’t comprehend, “Why would somebody not be honest?” I mean, why would they lie? I can not wrap my head around that, because I wasn’t brought up that way, you know? That is my biggest Achilles’ heel right there, or kryptonite, is I actually believe you. If you need a sucker for a partner, I’m right here, because I will …

JD: Oh, man. That’s funny.

John: That has cost me more money through the years. Resources, time. But you know what? I look at it like this: As I go through my day, and I mentioned earlier it’s got to be a win-win, and I know I can sleep at night. I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I did everything I possibly could to make the situation the best of what it could be, and I have no regrets, or “regrats.” What was that movie, where he had it tattooed across his chest?

JD: Yeah.

John: “Regrets.” Yeah. I don’t remember the movie.

JD: Me either. [crosstalk 00:26:19].

John: I don’t have any regrets for any of the decisions that I’ve made, because everything’s a learning experience too, and the older you get- I’m in my early 40s now- but you look at the situations, and it’s like, “Okay, well people take advantage of me. I’ve learned from that.” As long as you don’t make the same mistakes multiple, multiple times, obviously, or hopefully you don’t make them multiple times, but yeah.

JD: Cool.

John: I would say that would be my Achilles’ heel right there.

JD: Cool. You talked about lifetime value and things. Do you look at 80-20? Do you look at the Pareto principle as it applies to your business, focusing on a smaller percentage of high-leverage activities? Do you have any thoughts around that?

John: Interesting. If we had this podcast tomorrow, then I would have thoughts on that, but I actually have a call today where we’re supposed to be going over that, because I have not looked into any of that as of yet.

JD: Okay. Cool. That will be fascinating. I’ll circle back with you, and I’ll put a teaser out there. The 80-20 is a big thing to me, and I’m always trying to look at the handful of things that have high-leverage opportunities, so I think it’ll be fun to hear. You’re going to the NFR, the National Finals Rodeo in December this year, is that right?

John: That’s right. We’ve got a few riders that are going out there that have been on product, so I’ve got an opportunity to go out to Vegas in December. There’s also another thing in Oklahoma City the first of December, and then go right out to Vegas after that. I’ve been to the NFR, but it’s been on the human supplement … Or I’ve been to Vegas at the same time as the NFR. The Major League Baseball winter meetings for all the Major League Baseball coaches, so the human GHP sports supplement, that’s typically at the beginning of December, and they move around, so in 2008 it was in Vegas at the same time the NFR was going on. We didn’t have a horse product then, but the human product, I was out there selling. That was the closest I’d been to the NFR.

JD: Yeah.

John: But this year, we’re going to go.

JD: That’s great.

John: Yeah. I’ve heard you’ve been to the NFR, though.

JD: I have. I was just getting ready to say I competed there actually in two events in 2000. Competed in the steer wrestling and the tight end roping, and then in 2005, I was the head of PRCA Properties, which ran the marketing division of basically the governing body of pro rodeo, and so was involved with television contracts, and national sponsorship agreements.

John: That’s awesome.

JD: Yeah. It was kind of fun for me to go back in the capacity being in the front office there, and you’ll have a blast. It’s a really unique event. Cowboy hats and boots converge upon Las Vegas, you know?

John: Yeah. Yeah.

JD: And Cowboy Christmas, which is their … I think they occupy the Las Vegas Convention Center, and the Sands. Maybe it’s even moved around since I’ve been out there, but there’s a lot of shopping that goes on, and a lot of horse people obviously, and you’ll do well. You’ll have a good time. Vegas wears me out, though.

John: Oh, man. Does it ever.

JD: I mean, [crosstalk 00:29:57] days, and I’m glad that I don’t live in that environment all the time.

John: Oh, yeah. Now, you did mention to me the other day, in your professional rodeo experience, that you had not broken any bones. You had some other injuries, but-

JD: I did, yeah. I’m excited to try out your product. Very excited. I’ve torn my ACL in my right knee a couple of times, both times competing in rodeo, and then I tore my left shoulder. Just recently, I play old man basketball, and I rolled my ankle really bad. I’m just now getting around without limping horribly. I’m super stoked to try your product and dunking again. I’ve only dunked once in my life, but I think it was a short rim or something. I don’t know where my ups came from that day, but [crosstalk 00:30:57].

John: Was there a trampoline? Was there a trampoline involved?

JD: There wasn’t. I’ve been trying to recreate that moment ever since.

John: Oh man. Yeah. I know. It’s bad when you hit your 40s, because it’s like when you’re out playing basketball, my son is big time into basketball, so we’ll go to the park, and I play with all the young guys. Usually I’m one of the older ones out there, but the part that just is really irritating is when the ball is going by and your brain is like, “Yeah, I’m going to get that.” And your body’s like, “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

JD: Yeah. That happens to me more often than … Or the other one is, “I’ll get him.” If you’re guarding somebody and you’re like, “How did I let him blow by me? I never used to let that happen.” [crosstalk 00:31:41] yourself.

John: No. Not at all. Yeah.

JD: You have an interesting tech stack. I spent some time on your site. You have a WordPress site, and then when you click on to buy a product, it actually goes to Shopify, and you’re using Shopify’s shopping cart solution.

John: Yes.

JD: You have Facebook Messenger that pops up on the side. I’d like for you to talk to me just a little bit about your thoughts around how you have your site organized and how the Facebook Messenger widget helps you to educate or answer questions and convert buyers. Love to hear that.

John: All right. Well, it was one of those where it wasn’t planned this way. It’s just how it happened. Through the years, I was always interested, even going back to college, was probably one of the first people to build my own website the old HTML way, and I was so proud. Anyways, through the years, technology’s always intrigued me just period, so I’ve kind of learned Photoshop, and I can manipulate photos and images and pictures, and then I got into Dreamweaver, so I learned Dreamweaver to build websites, and then of course I got into WordPress, and of course that made everything super easy through WordPress. The site, Equinety products, I actually built, and then we needed a way to check out. Then I heard about Shopify. Through Shopify, that’s how we just connected everything that way, and then of course I ran on to Revenue Conduit, I know the guys over there, and that’s how I connected everything, because I was already using Infusionsoft as well.

JD: [crosstalk 00:33:42].

John: Yeah. That’s how those components go. Is there a better way to do it? I don’t know. I mean, it’s one of those where this is working pretty good. I know WordPress inside and out, and so things I can change and update, and I can do it on the fly. I know Shopify has the full … You can build the entire website right on Shopify, but I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t have time to do that learning curve.” I just kept it the way that it is right now.

JD: Right. Absolutely.

John: Yup.

JD: And Messenger, do you get some good interaction on that? Do you find that’s valuable?

John: Yes. Now, are you talking about the little blue thing down on the bottom right hand corner?

JD: Correct. Uh-huh (affirmative).

John: That’s actually a … It’s not Messenger, believe it or not. It looks like Messenger, but it’s actually a chat software.

JD: Okay. Is it live chat?

John: It is a live chat. I just have it turned off, because I don’t have time to do it. I installed it on it, but what people can do is they can leave a message if they have a specific question. I probably get three, four, five messages a day I would say, probably on average. At least two to four messages per day through there. Just questions about the product. One of the things, and I learned this years ago, and it’s probably because I didn’t know any better, I just thought this is what everybody did, and then later I found out, “Well, nobody does this.” But being in sales, a lot of people are scared of sales, but sales is really just talking to people. I mean, I don’t sell people anything. It’s an education of what you have, and then if people like you, they buy from people they like. Then you have a bonus if the product actually works the way that you say that it does, and then it’s an extra bonus.
I used to be in the financial services industry, in life insurance. I’ve heard that’s a hard business to be in, but of course I didn’t know any better, and I’m going to go a little bit off tangent and I’ll bring it back in. Here in Southwest Florida, this was 2004, I didn’t know anybody. I moved down here and I didn’t know a soul. My wife was all I knew. I’m in the insurance business, and what they have you do in the insurance business is write a list of all the people you know, and then those are the people you’re going to go talk to first. I was like, “Well, I don’t know anybody. I just moved here.”
The general manager says to me, “If you want to be number one in the company, I’ll tell you what you have to do, but nobody ever wants to do it.” I said, “Well, I’ll do it. I mean, I’m hungry. I’ll go do anything.” He says, “All right, but nobody ever wants to do it.” I said, “Well, tell me.” He goes, “Well, if you go walk into 1,000 businesses and just introduce yourself, tell them what you’re doing, if there’s any way you can help with insurance needs or anything like that, you’ll be the number ones sales guy in all this company.” Now, this was Northwestern Mutual, which is a very large insurance company.

JD: Right.

John: I said, “That’s it? That’s all I have to do?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “All right.” I would get up at 6:00, 6:30 in the morning, go hit some of these construction guys. The owner would be there before their crews got in, which it would give you a leg up anyways, because who even does that? I only made it to 750 stores, and I finished fourth in the company for first-year agents.

JD: Wow.

John: It just goes to show you that if you do things that other people don’t want to do or don’t think to do, you have an advantage, but where this is all leading is, I love talking to people, and you get into the message … People send emails, and it’s customer service, and what I found out in sales a long time ago, if you just return a phone call, you are so far ahead of the game, because a lot of sales guys, they don’t follow up with people, you know? They just sit and wait for their phone to ring, versus the other way around. If you’re on a call with somebody and you always get a next action step, well, if you call them back when you said you were going to call them back, then a lot of people are surprised. There’s a lot of people on the receiving end of that that sometimes just test you to see, because they want to know how hungry you are.
There was an instance in the insurance business, I walked in 7:30 in the morning, and it was a glass repair. The owner’s in there by himself, and so I tell him, I introduce myself. He goes, “What are you doing out at this hour?” I said, “Well, I figured …” I go, “I figured it was the only way I’d get a chance to meet you.” Which I thought was clever.

JD: Right. Right.

John: He kind of laughed, and he goes, “What are you doing?” I told him, “Insurance.” He goes, “Really?” He goes, “Well, I had a guy come in last week that was going to help me with my insurance, and I’ve got the whole folder right here. I put it all together for him and I never heard back from him.” I go, “Really?” So of course I’m drooling right now. Here’s what he does to me. He goes, “Listen, I’m really busy today, but if you’ll come back next Thursday at 7:30, I’ll be happy to sit down with you.” I said, “All right.” I show up next Thursday at 7:30. He goes, “Oh, I didn’t think you’d show up.” He goes, “I just did that to see if you’d show up or not.”
Yup. If you just follow up with people, so going back to the Messenger on the website, emails are coming in. I’m running this entire operation by myself, but I can’t do that without the systems in place, and so over time I’ve created an FAQ spreadsheet, or notepad paper, which I actually probably need to put on the website. I just haven’t got there yet. A lot of the same questions come in, so I’m doing a lot of just copying and pasting, so it’s very fast, but so many people comment of how great the customer service is. Even if there’s an order that’s messed up, then you send it out again, and you throw in an extra sample tub. You just do something, and these people, basically it’s creating an army, because these people, they love the product, they love the customer service. I mean, why would they go anywhere else?

JD: That’s right. Well, my final big question for you is, and I think you may have already answered it. The one thing. What do you think the one thing is that you have done that has led to your success? If you could boil it down to one thing?

John: I would say if I just had to say one word, it’s “determination,” because I want to win, and I work around the clock. I don’t start at 9:00 and take off at 5:00. It took years and years for my wife to adjust to this type of lifestyle, but my phone’s on me all the time. We have the privilege in this industry, in this business to travel, so we have a camper. Everything’s a business trip, and a lot of times by the time we’re through traveling wherever we are, by the time we get to a campground, I might be on my computer for two or three hours, because I have to keep all the Facebook stuff updated, I’m replying to emails and all that, so for two or three hours. And it could be I’m up til 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, and then if I don’t get to somebody, they’re the first ones I get to in the next morning.
My attitude towards everything is, “I’m going to win, and it’s a win-win for everybody.” We’re blessed to have such a great product, but these people that are asking questions, that are purchasing the product, they’re putting their time into me by asking the questions or purchasing product from me, so it’s my responsibility to give them the same attention back as best I can. Sure, do things fall through the crack? Absolutely. We just had a, with Hurricane Irma that came through, we just missed that by 30 miles. It went just east of us, but a lot of devastation. Then it goes right up Florida and right into Georgia, where our warehouse is in Georgia. Well, the timing of this couldn’t have been more perfect, wink, wink. Because we had just moved over, did a big change with our inventory, and how it was all billed and everything else, so there was a delay in shipping from all of that aspect. At the same time, when the hurricane was coming through, the warehouse was out of electric for a couple of days.
When they started shipping product, actually on this Monday, I got notification, people are saying, “Hey, I ordered product and all I got was a manila folder with a brochure.” I’m like, “What in the world? How can that even happen? How can somebody just pack a brochure and not the product?” Right? You know, your day’s going fine, and all of a sudden you get … There’s 23 people that we know of that just got a brochure? People are sending in emails. “I am not happy.” How do you handle that situation? The way that I handled it, immediately … It’s all about communication. If you communicate with people, and you screwed up or something screwed up in the company, I’m always apologizing. I’ll be the first one to apologize. “I am so sorry. Here’s what I’m going to do to make it up for you.” Or, “I’m going to get to the bottom of this and I’ll follow up.” Then you just do what you say you’re going to do.
In this particular situation, just yesterday I wrote out an email. Because of our CRM, through Infusionsoft, I just did it from this date to this date, to cover a range. Some of those people weren’t even affected, but I didn’t care. It’s like, “Hey thank you so much for being a valued customer. It seems that some of you have only received a brochure instead of your product. I would imagine that since your horse can’t read, that the brochure is no good to your horse.” I always try to turn things into kind of a funny thing, but it’s also, “I’m apologizing. Thank you for being a customer. We fixed the problem and we’re shipping everything out two-day air to get it to you as fast as possible. Thanks again so much. If you have any questions, contact me directly.” It’s determination, it’s the customer service, and it’s all those things. People are pretty forgiving, too, if you’re just upfront with them.

JD: Right. Well, and if you take ownership, and you make it right.

John: Yes. Absolutely.

JD: That’s just old-school how you do business, and I think it’s the breath of fresh air that my goal in doing E-Commerce in the Trenches, anyhow, is to just say, “Look, forget the smoke and mirrors. This is real people doing business with other real people. It’s humans doing business with humans. We just happen to do it in the cloud. We just happen to do it online.” The whole world is shifting and becoming more and more open to transacting business this way, but it still falls back on good principles of doing what you say you’re going to do, looking somebody in the eye, even though it might be virtually, shaking their hand, and thanking them for coming in and looking around.

John: That’s right. Absolutely.

JD: Well John, where can people go to learn more about Equinety Products, and anything else that you have going on?

John: Well, for all you horse folks out there that are listening in … There has to be somebody out there.

JD: Oh, yeah. For sure.

John: Equinety Products, it’s E-Q-U-I-N-E-T-Y, so Equine with a T-Y, Products with an S, even though there’s only one SKU, but there is a sample one, so I guess that could be products. I really appreciate you having me on, and having the time to share all this information, and hopefully there’s been some takeaways that people can have, and of course I’m always open to learning myself. I definitely don’t know everything, but love sharing things that have gone on with me. If they help somebody else out, that is awesome, so I appreciate all of your time as well.

JD: You bet, John. Thanks, and we’ll catch you next time.

John: Okay. Thanks so much.

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