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JD:

Hello and welcome back to E-Commerce In The Trenches. I’m JD Crouse, and today with me, I have Anthony Mink from LiveBearded.com. Anthony, welcome. Welcome to the show.

Anthony Mink:

Thanks for having me. It’s an honor.

JD:

Yeah, absolutely. If you were to walk out of your door where you are right now, tell me where you are and what you would see, first thing you would see.

Anthony Mink:

I’m in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’d walk out my door, and I’d see a giant palm tree.

JD:

Nice.

Anthony Mink:

That’s the first thing I’d see.

JD:

That’s awesome. It’s probably in the 80’s today there?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. It’s been 75, 80. I just literally last Monday moved from Summit County, Colorado where the average temperature was about, I would say, 10 degrees in the morning, and I wake up here, and it’s now 60, so it’s quite the difference, but yeah, Scottsdale is beautiful.

JD:

Yeah, it’s wonderful. Well, hey, let’s jump right into it, so LiveBearded.com. Tell me about how it came to be. Tell me about how this baby was born.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. A little bit of background on me. I’ve been online full-time for seven years now, seven years literally this month, and I’ve done a variety of things. I started e-commerce businesses. I’ve sold e-commerce businesses. I’ve started media companies, sold media companies, and through my journey, one of my best friends, he’s name is Spencer. He’s my current business partner. Him and I always talked about doing different business ideas together, and being best friends, we never really wanted to force it, and we always just bounced business ideas back and forth.

One day, he came to me, and he’s like, “Hey, man. I want to walk away from my real estate career, and I’d love to mentor under you. I’d love to just like come over to your house every day and learn this internet business. Whether that means we work together or not, like I’d just love to learn from you, and at the very least, we can both run businesses, and travel, and live this lifestyle together.”

He started coming over every day, and it was right around November 2015, and I challenged him to come up with a niche that he wanted to do some test marketing in. Make a long story short, he came back. He said, “Hey, this ‘No Shave November’ thing is coming up. It’s interesting.” He had been growing out a beard already. I had a small short beard at the time, and he was like, “Dude, I’d love to do some testing, some marketing in the beard space,” so we put our heads together, brainstormed some ideas, came up with some actual apparel ideas and concepts, and sold absolutely no t-shirts. It was a giant failure.

What was interesting is I’ve had … I obviously had enough understanding and success on the internet at this time to look at our cost of traffic and our engagement. We are doing Facebook advertising at the time and advertising these shirts and stuff through Facebook and through a couple of sales funnels that I built, and our engagement was through the roof. Our cost of advertising at the time were really low. Some of the lowest I’d ever seen, and so I knew we had a captive audience. We just weren’t monetizing it in the right way.

We just weren’t putting the right offer in front of them, so I came up with the idea to create a free plus shipping offer. We went out and bought 500 wooden beard combs, and we really did it as just a test to see if I was right, if we were right, and the fact that we had a captive audience, we just needed to come up with a better offer for them. We bought 500 beard combs and put together a free plus shipping offer, put together an upsell funnel, and instantly, sold out of the combs in like two and a half days.

JD:

Nice.

Anthony Mink:

I have this picture of Spencer and I sitting in my living room literally licking and sticking envelopes, sending out the first 500 combs, which was a giant pain in the ass to say the least, but we looked at the data, and we were able to … With cost of fulfillment, cost of goods, cost of advertising, we’re actually able to break even on the first 500 combs with the upsells and everything that we were doing. To make a long story short, we ordered another 10,000 of them. We said, “You know what? We sold 500. Let’s see if we can sell 10,000.”

JD:

I love it. You go right from 500 to 10,000. You don’t even go, “Yeah, a thousand. 1,500. We’re just going to go 10,000.” I love it.

Anthony Mink:

Just jump right in.

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

We sold those 10,000 literally the exact same funnel, free plus shipping, over the course of about two and a half months. Rather than operating in the realm of theory, right? I’ve made enough mistakes in business by doing what I think is going to work that I have completely sworn off that methodology, and I try to test everything before I really, really decide to move forward. I know 10,000 is a big order quantity to a lot of people, but in the case that we are at and how easily we are able to sell them for a little bit better than breakeven, we thought it was a pretty easy transition to go from 500 to 10,000.

After we sold the 10,000, we started then … As we were selling them, we started then fighting every one of our customers to join us in a private Facebook group. In the beginning, the intention of doing this was to create a community of beardsmen that could support each other, but honestly, it was also for market research, and it was, “Let’s ask these guys, actual paying customers, what they want.”

Over the course of that two months where we were selling these 10,000 combs, we had these customers that were coming in, and we just referred to them in our business as brothers. Our number one responsibility was to get to know them and to create a connection and understand what they want, what they need, what they like, what they don’t like, and that’s really what became the origin of Live Bearded was those first 10,000 customers. They gave us the exact information, insight data, and real understanding of the market to grow Live Bearded to what it is today.

JD:

Dude, that is so ninja. Everybody says, every great marketer says, “Well, it’s really simple. Just ask people what they want, and go get it, and sell it to them.” Right?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah.

JD:

When you actually have to put that into practice and figure out, “How am I going to establish a paid relationship with them?” Because I don’t … You’re probably a student of the ask method or you’ve seen it, which I know has been really successful for a lot of people, but there’s a big difference when you get somebody to actually pay, and pull out their credit card, and buy something like there’s a deeper connection.

I’ve heard they’re 20 times more likely to spend money with you the second time even if it’s just a free plus shipping offer, right? They spent five bucks with you or whatever, and you guys actually went and did what most people are just unwilling to do. You took the long view. Even though you compressed time, two and a half months, 10,000 units, acquired 10,000 customers, but I’ve spent enough time on your site to know like you guys really, really did ask these people, ask these guys, ask these brothers like what they want, how you can serve them, what you can get for them. Kudos to you.

Anthony Mink:

Thanks, man. I think you’re spot on. I think you’ve got to start with the end in mind to some degree, but you’ve also got to have patience. When you’re first getting something going … I mean, I’ll be the first to admit. I had a lot of angst because it was taking too long to get things going, and in the beginning, I wanted to go fast, but one of the number one lessons I’ve learned with Live Bearded is … One of the things that I say to my team is we want to have a sprinter’s mindset with a marathoner’s mentality. We always want to have a sense of urgency. We always want to do better every single day, but we want to plan as if we’re going to be around in 3, 5, 10 years from now.

I think it’s funny, man. Being in the startup world, everyone wants to get big fast, and you hear these sexy stories like a buddy was just telling me that he was at a conference, and he heard the owner of Purple Mattress speak. He was all, “Oh my gosh, these guys grew from zero to 200 million in the first two years,” and you hear these like anomaly stories, these big, sexy home-run stories, but those are the exception of the rule.

E-commerce in the trenches like the way that e-commerce is really operated is in the trenches day after day, doing the ordinary things consistently, and if you do the ordinary things, the things that you know you need to do every single day, building the relationships, just following through, really getting to know your customers, there’s no doubt I believe you’re going to be able to have success. It’s going to take time, but I’d rather plant seeds and water those seeds every single day than go out and kill a big piece of game, but then be hunting for the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

JD:

Right, right. Wow, there’s so much to unpack here. I have a feeling I might know the answer to this, but in your other e-commerce businesses, were you just like acquiring customers, doing the typical, “How fast can I go?” making sure your supply … like talk to me about what really caused you to slow down and do it the way that you did it with Live Bearded.

Anthony Mink:

I’ve got a good buddy of mine who’s in … He got his start in the affiliate game, and that’s also where I got my start. One of the things that he said to me … He’s probably one of the smartest businessmen I know. He said, “Anthony, easy money makes you stupid,” and he said, “The easier the money comes, like the worse decisions you get in the habit of making.”

When I first got started online, I was 100% an affiliate marketer, and I got to the point where I was making more money in less time than I ever thought would be possible for myself, and so that really conditioned me to just go fast, to make money fast. When you go from making $0 to $150,000 a month, then in less than a year, you get very, very jaded.

JD:

Right.

Anthony Mink:

For me, it took me the better part of five years to make enough mistakes, to have enough successes and make enough mistakes to really realize that I wanted to create longevity, and I wanted to create depth in my business. Prior to Live Bearded, I started an e-commerce site selling NFL-licensed merchandise and college-licensed merchandise, and we had access to a big list of sports fans through some of my affiliate marketing efforts and things that I’ve done. In all of those other businesses, all I really cared about was making money. I’ll just be completely honest with you.

JD:

Sure.

Anthony Mink:

I didn’t really give a shit about the customer like I wanted to make sure they got the product, but when you’re in the affiliate marketing space, it’s really just about dollar in, dollar out. How much are you spending on ads? How much are you making in sales? What’s your ROI? It’s very much like day trading, like stock, like doing stocks, and options, and things like that.

After having failures and realizing that I was hunting in those past businesses, I really just got to the conclusion that I had some big wins, but I also had some big loses, and those loses were because I never built a relationship or never really created what I felt like was a lot of value for my customers. As we got to really do this research with our first 10,000 customers and really get to know them, there was a real like need in the marketplace for the sense of community and for really putting the customer first, and so that’s the ethos that we built Live Bearded by.

JD:

There’s a couple words or a couple things that you guys are on your shirts and that you talk about on your site and different places. The word “brotherhood,” and the phrase “Do better.” Tell me. Obviously, we’ve got a taste in brotherhood, but how did those two phrases, the word and the phrase, how did they … What do they mean to you, and how do they apply to the business?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. Well, “brotherhood” is simple. Spencer and I have been best friends for 12 years, and we always talked about doing something together because we thought it would be amazing to work with a brother. One of the things I think, anyone listening to this who’s a solo-owner or has done business by themselves, is when you have a win and you have no one to high-five, it sucks.

JD:

Right.

Anthony Mink:

We play this game of business, and when you play it long enough, you realize it’s a little bit of a lonely journey. Us business owners, we take a lot of arrows in the back, and we have a lot of highs and a lot of lows at times. I’ve done that for five years by myself, and when Spence and I really decided to pick up Live Bearded, one of the number one things we did was we sat down, and we said, “What do we want this company, this brand to be about?”

It was really metaphorically Spence and I coming together to create a company in brotherhood, so that’s really the foundation we’ve set was this idea of brotherhood. With that, we said, “How can we make everything that we do align? How would I treat Spencer if I was going to buy from me? What types of return policies, what type of shipping, what types of warranties would I offer him?” That’s where we came up with the whole ethos that we have where we offer grooming products, but we have a lifetime warranty on everything. If a customer calls us for any reason doesn’t like what they’ve gotten, if one of their combs breaks, if a shirt rips, whatever it is, if it’s a manufacturer’s issue, we don’t even question them. We send them a new one in the mail.

JD:

That’s awesome.

Anthony Mink:

We swap out any fragrances, any products like our whole ethos is this idea of, “If you buy from us, you’re our brother. You’re in this brotherhood, and we’re going to have your back no matter what.” We started with Spencer and I, and we put our money where our mouth is with the way that we do our shipping, our warranties, our guarantees, and just the way that we communicate with everyone. We try to give everybody, everyone of our customers that identity of being a brother, so every email that goes out, “Hey, brother.” Every video we record, “Hey, brother.” That is our culture.

As men, one of my fundamental beliefs moving to the idea of “Do better” is I believe, and we say this in all of our live videos, and this is again really cultural ethos of Live Bearded, but I believe it’s the responsibility of every man to do better every single day to learn from our mistakes, to grow through our failures, and to work to become the best men that we can be for our families, for our communities, for our loved ones, and most importantly, for ourselves.

That’s just my life philosophy. That’s what I believe. That’s what Spencer believes. When we started sharing these types of beliefs, we realized that it really struck a chord in the community of men that we have, and that’s how the “Do better” philosophy evolved, and we threw it on a shirt. Now, it’s also as core to Live Bearded as brotherhood is.

JD:

Dude, I love it. I think that men are crying for other men to tell them it’s okay to be a dude like there’s this … I’m probably going to lose some listeners on this, but there’s this serious pressure in the United States, in the world to feminize men and make us nice little polite little boys … Ha, little girls.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah.

JD:

To have a place where men … You can beat your chest a little bit. Not that you’re like ugly or mistreating people, but it’s like okay to grow a big, old, cool beard and put some awesome products in it, look sharp, have some fun, hang out with some dudes that see the world the same way that you do. I think guys that are not bearded are dying to have brotherhood, to have fellowship like that, so you’ve really tapped into something.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. One of the things that Spence and I talked about and then I talked about with my team, and whenever this topic comes up, one of the things I see in my life, and i think that … I know a lot of other men agree with this is as a man today in 2018, everything around us tells us how we’re not good enough, smart enough, significant enough.

JD:

Yes.

Anthony Mink:

Right? Here’s a perfect example. You log on to social media, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, and you start scrolling through your news feed, and what are you going to see? You’re going to see dudes that have hotter girls, bigger houses, nicer vacations, better cars. Whether we realize it consciously or not, we’re subconsciously being told every single day with everything that we’re exposed to now with social media how we don’t stack up. What I’ve experienced in my life both personally and through relationships is it turns into a pissing contest with men, and we need to out one-up each other.

JD:

Yeah, how true.

Anthony Mink:

Right? Where do we get our sense of significance from because as men, we’re valued for our production in society? We’re valued for what we create, and if everyone else is creating more shit than us, then where do we get our sense of fulfillment? Right?

JD:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anthony Mink:

What we found with Live Bearded is by creating a culture, by creating a community where we’re literally here to uplift, encourage, and support each other every single day, it actually bonded men together in a way that’s incredible. We had a barbecue for some of our customers in North Carolina, and we had 150 guys show up. Some guys drove 25 hours from El Paso, Texas to North Carolina to come and hang out because they knew that this is a community, this is a brotherhood where it isn’t about the pissing contest.

It’s about just coming together to uplift each other, encourage each other, and support each other to do better every single day. I think it’s something that every man needs in the world that we live in today is a sense of significance, a sense of purpose, and a sense of brotherhood. I think having one man compliment another man is a huge validating point in our culture.

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

Right? It’s a sign of respect. It’s a sign of equality, if you will. What we found is one of the easiest ways that that takes place and one of the only ways that a man will compliment another man is on his beard, believe it or not. Most men aren’t going to go up to you and go, “Damn, bro, like you’re looking jacked today like you’ve been hitting the gym,” or, “Man, I really like those shoes. Where did you get those?”

JD:

Right.

Anthony Mink:

That happens, right, but that’s not most men. I’ll tell you what. Like you have a dude that’s strolling down the sidewalk and he’s got a big burly beard, dudes are like, “Man, your beard is awesome. Great beard, brother. Wow, I wish I could grow beard like that.”

JD:

I did it to you guys in LA at the Content and Commerce event. I rolled by you guys in the foyer, and you all were just hanging out there, you and Spencer, and I’m like, “I have so got to talk to those guys because I’ve got major beard envy,” like I’ve been telling my wife. We’ve been married 20 years in May. It will be 20 years in May, and I keep telling her like, “These guys got the coolest beard you’ve ever seen. I’m going to do it.” She’s like, “No, you’re not.” I’m like, “Yes, I am.” We’ve got this ongoing war, but you’re so right like … I’ll tell you one other thing. To compliment a guy says a lot about the guy who is doing the complimenting. I think that if you create a culture where like it’s cool, and accepted, and not weird to say, “Hey, man. You’re looking sharp today,” or whatever, I think that that guy that delivered that compliment actually is really secure in his manhood, is really secure in who he is.

Anthony Mink:

Have 100% ingrained.

JD:

Yeah, and so good for you guys.

Anthony Mink:

That’s a challenge like if we’ve got any brothers out there that are listening to this, business owners, anyone who’s out there, I challenge you as men, brothers, to find ways to compliment other dudes whether they’ve got an awesome car like whatever it is because the more that you compliment, and this is one of the things that we say, it’s exactly what you just said like someone who’s confident and secure in themselves is only able to give compliments to other people.

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

One of two things takes place mentally, right? When you see someone, either, “Wow,” like that dude got an awesome car or he’s doing great, or, “Why am I not enough?”

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

It’s either, “Wow,” a sign of respect, or it’s, “Wow, I don’t stack up.”

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

Right? When you can get in the habit of complimenting other people for whatever it is, it actually unconsciously builds up your confidence in the process.

JD:

Man, we could talk about this stuff all day. This is right up my alley like I knew I was going to enjoy this, this talk today. We could talk about this kind of stuff all day. Let’s get into some nuts and bolts like what are you guys doing right now to drive traffic to your store? A mixed of paid and organic? Help me get under the hood a little bit about what’s working now for you guys.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. I come from the school of paid advertising. That’s how I cut my teeth in the affiliate game. I’ve spent a couple million bucks of my own money at this point in time on Facebook ads and on paid ads over the last seven years. Our primary strategy is paid advertising, and one of my fundamental beliefs is if you cannot pay to acquire a customer, you don’t have a business.

JD:

Yeah, totally agree.

Anthony Mink:

Especially in the world that we live in today. I got started seven years ago with Facebook ads, and I just never left the platform. That’s my primary traffic source, so the bulk of our advertising spend is on Facebook ads, and we’re really working to diversify that. I’ve got a guy who manages all of our Amazon and Google, so we’ve got ads going through the Google Display Network, on YouTube, on Amazon, Google Search, so we’re trying to diversify it. That’s our primary strategy.

At this time, we’ve got a full-time social media strategist on our team, and he is really working to push organic traffic through engagement on Facebook, on social media, on Instagram. Those are our two primary networks. We do a lot with email. 40%-plus of our monthly revenue comes from email, and I’ve really worked diligently over the last 18 months to grow and to optimize that performance, so we drive a lot of traffic via email as well.

JD:

Nice.

Anthony Mink:

Honestly, man, like I’m … Again, I’ve been in the game for seven years now, so I’d like to think of myself as a little bit of a vet. We started out with Facebook, but now, we’re … 2017 was our first full years. I know I told you January or November 15 is when we started testing, but most of 2016 was serving that audience and product development. It took us almost all of 2016 to do our product development. We formulated all of our own products, and to get our website live and to get things testing, and January of 2017 was the first time we had all of our products, all of our skews in stock and on the site.

JD:

Wow.

Anthony Mink:

We just finished our first full year, and we’re really now going into year two with a traffic approach of balance. I don’t want to be too … like right now, probably 80% to 90% of our spend is on Facebook, and honestly, I don’t really like that. I’d like to be more balanced so that we don’t … If something changes or something happens, we don’t have such a heavy weight in one area.

JD:

Right, right. I think that’s every paid-focused e-commerce store is, “How do I get off of the Facebook platform? How do I diversify my traffic?” because they have reach, they have scale, they typically can do it affordably. It’s the bane of every advertiser’s existence I think. “I don’t want to have all my eggs in this basket.”

Anthony Mink:

It definitely takes time, right, to get things diversified and to scale them out, and I think the biggest reason why it takes time is bandwidth. Facebook is such a comprehensive platform at this point in time. We’ve occupied the idea of bringing in someone that their only role is Facebook advertising. We have one person whose only role at this point in time is they run our Amazon store, but they’re only … the 50% of their role is just 100% Google advertising.

We live in a world now with online commerce where each individual channel could literally warrant one person because the changes are happening so frequently, the new advertising products are coming out, the testing options and the split-testing options are seemingly endless, so it’s easy to get really overwhelmed with it, but anybody who’s listening, the number one thing that I’ve done is I started in one place, and I’ve done thing that worked, and I milked that until I got to a point where I had enough resources to then bring on or diversify. That’s the approach that we’ve taken, and anybody who’s trying to diversify their strategy with traffic, that’s the approach I’d recommend.

JD:

Good. I want to ask you about you. Obviously, you have the expertise in e-commerce, and media, and paid acquisitions. What does Spencer bring to the table other than having a really super cool beard?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. His beard is a rockstar beard. That’s for sure. Originally, when Spence started, as I’ve alluded to in the beginning, he had never been online. He didn’t have any experience, and so I told him. I’m like, “Look, man. To start out with, you’re going to be the spokesperson. You’re going to do all the training, tutorial videos, the how-tos like you need to master content. You’re going to be our content guy and our spokesperson.”

I’d say his biggest strength at this point in time is what he brings in the table in terms of his ability to create content and really connect with others. One of the things that Spence just has naturally is this … He’s just a people person. He loves connecting. He loves …

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

He’s got a charisma about him, and so in the beginning, his number one role was content creation and connecting with every single one of those 10,000 first customers. He would spend half of the day, four, five hours a day just in the private Facebook group in the brotherhood connecting with guys, uplifting, encouraging guys, getting to know them, getting to know what they want, what they need, and then using that, the intelligence, the understanding of who our guys are to create content, to create different things that we can really connect with them and really help them.

I’d say his top strengths are just really connecting with people, building relationships, creating content, and he’s also done all of our product development. When we first got started, I said, “You’re creating content. You’ve also got to be a product expert,” and so we went out, and we literally bought every beard product on the market. He tried all of them, sampled them, used them, what he liked, what he didn’t like, read all the different reviews, and then worked hand-in-hand with our manufacturer to really custom-formulate all of our own products. At this point, he … Again, all of our product formulations, all of our content. He’s a product expert. He does a lot of the relationship building. He’s a customer care specialist, if you will.

JD:

Yeah. He’s really strong. He’s very high-empathy, right? I can see him really thriving even though it would wear you out just the sheer hours, but I could see him … Like he doesn’t have to work at encouraging people.

Anthony Mink:

He just like genuinely … I can’t even remember what book it is, but it was talking about the difference between introverts and extroverts, and it said the easiest way to know if you’re an introvert is if you go out to a party, and by the time you’re done, like if you have an awesome time, you’re meeting with friends and getting to know people, but by the time you’re done, you’re just exhausted. You’re tired. You’re an introvert because extroverts, it’s like if they go to a party, even if they don’t meet anybody and they talk to a bunch of shitty people, they’re going to leave excited because they were like out meeting people and having a good time.

Spence is just that way, and honestly like … I would like to think of myself as very flexible, but I’m more of an introvert by nature, and he … like Spencer just thrives on connection, and community, and talking to people, and getting to know people. I really think that’s one of his unique abilities and without a doubt, one of his just natural strengths. He doesn’t have to work at it at all. He’s much more of a detail-structured guy than I am. I’m a big picture thinker, a visionary like I’m really, really great at getting things started and coming up with new strategies, and Spencer is great at helping execute them.

JD:

That’s awesome. Well, it sounds like you guys have a great team. It’s really important, right, that you guys have your clear lanes that you roll in, that you operate in. Obviously, there’s collaboration, there’s the meeting of the minds, and making sure that everybody is moving toward the same goal, but it’s really important that you operate in your areas of strength, especially if you’re building this thing for the long-term.

Anthony Mink:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah, yeah. We compliment each other really well.

JD:

That’s cool. You have subscriptions on your site, which I think is brilliant. I love the recurring revenue model. Would you mind sharing with us a percentage of your gross sales? What percentage is subscription, and what is one-off purchases?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah, yeah. I actually know that data.

JD:

I’m sure you do. I’m sure you know that.

Anthony Mink:

Just so the listeners know. If like they go to LiveBearded.com, we don’t … like we have Amazon-style subscribe and save, so it’s very like not in your face. If you’re buying and you want to just hit the little check button to subscribe and save. We have anywhere from … It ranges from 8% to 12% of our total sales are coming from subscription, so about 8% to 10% of … I’d say 8% to 12%. It’s usually somewhere around 10% of our total gross sales volume and our total order volume is on subscription.

JD:

Nice. Nice, and the attrition on those like how long? Are you tracking the average number of days that they stay with you before they fall out and that kind of stuff?

Anthony Mink:

Right now, 108 days is the average life cycle of a subscription.

JD:

Nice, and what are you using for your email, CRM, and auto-responder?

Anthony Mink:

We’re using Klaviyo.

JD:

Klaviyo? Are you happy with it?

Anthony Mink:

I don’t know if I can say the F word, but it’s effing awesome.

JD:

Okay, cool.

Anthony Mink:

I think it’s a marketer’s dream, and I say that because, again, I come from the world of advertising where you need to have data on every split-test that you’re running, all your ad copy, on your creative, on your headlines, and this is the only email platform that I’ve ever found that allows me to have the clarity for split-testing in the depth that I would like and need to actually adequately optimize our email. I honestly believe that’s the only reason why we’ve been able to get our email to an average of 40% of gross sales is simply because I’m in there optimizing our auto-responders, split-testing headlines, split-testing subject lines, split-testing layouts. Over 18 months, I’ve just created templates for everything that we do that are best performing, and they just consistently churn out 40% of our revenue for us.

JD:

Nice. Fantastic. On the site, you’ve got a lot of things going on. You’ve got Olark, you have … It looked like a timed widget, a time overlay opt-in form, but when I clicked on it, I actually didn’t … I didn’t have to put in my email address. Can you explain that technology to me? I haven’t seen that. Like it did apply a discount to the, right, to the cart?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah, I just added … I’m sure you know Ezra Firestone. He’s got a great app company called Zipify, and we buy all of his apps. He just launched this new like countdown timer app. Honestly, I just launched it on the site maybe like a week ago, two weeks ago, but essentially, I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re talking about. It’s just the time thing I think at 180 seconds on site, it pops up, and they actually have dynamic application technology. That sounded really fancy, dynamic application technology. I just pulled that shit on my own. Basically, they’ve got an integration with Shopify where you just hit “Get Discount,” and it automatically applies to your checkout so you don’t need to enter in anything.

JD:

That’s awesome. I hadn’t seen that, and that’s really cool. For the listeners, check out Zipify. We have used Zipify. I was jonesing about a post-purchase one-click upsell when Zipify first launched on our store, and at the time, they had to run everything through Stripe, and it didn’t integrate with our inventory, but that was like a year and a half ago. Are you using any One Click Upsell elements with Zipify? Have you tested that?

Anthony Mink:

Yes. We use Zipify Pages. We use One Click Upsell, and now, we use this little time thing. I haven’t done a lot of stuff with the One Click Upsell yet. Actually, just last night, we’ve been working on getting some product samples put together, and it’s just … From an economic standpoint, it’s really difficult to make product samples work in our business, but we decided that we want to make it happen. Literally, last night, I just pushed go on a free plus shipping offer for samples, and we’re doing it all through Shopify, and we’ve got the One Click Upsell integrated in there.

One of the things that I have done with it is we have bundles on our site, and if anybody is listening and you can bundle your products, you need to do it. It has elevated our average order value significantly. Our bundles are our best selling products. It’s an easier way for customers to buy. You’re simplifying the user experience. You’re giving them a little bit of a discount for bundling things together, and you’re telling them what they need out of all the stuff that’s on your site.

We offer bundles of our grooming products, and we don’t actually add on any of the accessories like combs, or brushes, or anything like that in the bundles because we want our customers to be able to buy the bundles on subscription, and I don’t really think that it’s like … I don’t want to send them a new comb every single month. With the technology that we have, we don’t have a way to like send them a comb for the first month and then not the second month. It’s a little bit clunky with the system that we’re using, so we just don’t offer it at all, but I started adding the combs as a one-click upsell.

JD:

Nice.

Anthony Mink:

That was a huge profit-maximizer. It converts at about 31% for us, so finding congruent items.

JD:

Nice.

Anthony Mink:

I think one-click upsells can be tremendous. When we had our free plus shipping offer in the very beginning with the comb, we had three different one-click upsells that we were testing, and that’s really how we’re able to break even and do different things, so I highly recommend. All Ezra’s apps are awesome. You got to figure out how to use it, and you got to make sure you do a lot of testing, but it can be a really powerful tool for e-commerce.

JD:

Are you doing all the dev work to make all this stuff happen, or do you have somebody outsourced, contract, or on your team?

Anthony Mink:

Dude, I hate development.

JD:

Me too.

Anthony Mink:

I’m a development retard.

JD:

Me too.

Anthony Mink:

I try not to use anything that doesn’t integrate.

JD:

Okay.

Anthony Mink:

Honestly, at this point, every software solution, every app that we use, it’s pretty much 100% integrated, plug and play. I don’t need to do any tech work, unless I have like some crazy specialization that I want. In that case, I found a guy on Upwork that I just do … I use for like simple fixes and tweaks here and there, but for the most part, I think … Honestly, we updated our site one time in 2017, which is probably bad to say, and the only reason why we updated it because the theme that we used, which is also Ezra’s profitable theme for Shopify, he came out with a new update, and we just needed to change it.

JD:

Right, right. Your free plus shipping, that’s built in to the theme because I know that you’re running free shipping site-wide and the way that we have our business set up, like that would be … You got to like stand on one leg and play with the weight or the … You got to do some funny things in the shipping calculator in order to be able to actually pull that off. Are you doing that with the Zipify app, or how are you executing that?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. The free plus shipping offer is through Zipify Pages app.

JD:

Okay.

Anthony Mink:

If anybody here wants to check it out, you just go to livebearded.com/sample. They can check out the sales page, but it’s just a sales page that literally redirects them back to the Shopify cart. It’s not really very techy or high-level. We just have a sample product that is listed for the shipping price. It’s hidden on our actual store. The only way you can see that product is by going through the sales funnel.

JD:

Got you.

Anthony Mink:

Honestly, I try to keep things as simple as possible. Again, I’m a tech retard, so any time I can just try to find the simplest and easiest way to do it. One of the biggest mistakes I made in past businesses spending literally tens of thousands of dollars on development and coding, and paying for all of that work before I could ever run a test.

I think that’s the stupidest thing that anyone could do when they’re just testing and trying new things is invest all this money into development before you even have an idea if it’s going to work or not, so I’m a big fan of just putting things together even if it’s clunky, even if you know the conversation rate is going to suck because it’s not optimized in the way that you would like it to be. Data is going to help you make strategic decisions. In this case, we just have Zipify Pages, sales page set up that gives them … not allows them to check out on an unlisted product on Shopify that they can only get access through that Zipify page.

JD:

Crazy. I love it. I’ve got to repeat what you just said because I’ve done it as well. I know that if you’re a marketer, you see something, you want to just do it. You want to implement it, and sometimes, the technology isn’t really ready for what you want to try to implement, and it creates a whole lot of work on the dev side. I remember, we were having to run all these custom scripts that I was hiring people to write Shopify Scripts before Shopify Scripts was even out. I was having Shopify’s developers, and then outsourced developers, and just trying to run really simple things that right now, out of the box, you can get done. Like you were saying, it wasn’t that way like two and a half years ago.

Anthony Mink:

Ugh.

JD:

Yeah, yeah, just …

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. We live in the easiest time to start a business honestly because technology has gotten to a point where most of the apps and technology will speak to each other. They all integrate directly. We run a multimillion-dollar business and have zero technology guys, zero development guys, and haven’t made one change to our website in 12 months because of the apps and the programs that come together, so it’s amazing what we have accessible to us today.

JD:

Yeah, but you have the strategic map like you know exactly how you want the flow of the customer, how you want them coming through your funnel, and so although it’s easier from a technology standpoint to execute on all these kinds of things, you still have to have a master, a wizard. You’re the bearded wizard that’s mapping these things out and making sure that they actually work and fulfill the promise that you made in the ad, right?

Anthony Mink:

Absolutely. Yeah. The sequencing and the structure is everything. You’re 100% correct there. That’s where you have to put on your testing hat and just come up with some hypothesizes or some hypothesis, and throw some shit against the wall, and see what sticks, but the sequence of which you take your customers through is going to determine your level of success in business, I believe.

JD:

Yeah. Are you using anything to track cohorts? Like a friend of mind owns Wicked Reports, Scott Desgrosseilliers. Are you familiar with Wicked Reports’ tracking tool?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah.

JD:

Yeah?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah, no. I know Scott.

JD:

Okay. Are you using anything to look at first click attribution and just look at your data in a little bit different way than what you’re seeing in the backend with Facebook?

Anthony Mink:

The simple answer is no, and this is definitely an area where we’re going to have to get a lot better in 2018. We’ve got very limited attribution data in our business at this point in time. We run a lot of our ad spend on a percentage basis. We want our daily spend to be about 20%-ish of our daily sales volume. That number works really well for us. I think that’s an e-commerce industry standard, if you will, depending upon cogs and things like that. For us, our attribution is very suspect, and we’re in the process of figuring out how we can greatly improve that.

JD:

Well, it’s encouraging though because you’ve got a multimillion-dollar business, and it’s like, “Keep it simple, 20% of gross daily sales, and if we’re hitting those numbers, we know that it spits out X amount of profit at the end of the month.” The beauty of it is for those who are wanting to scale and really wanting to get into paid traffic at a higher level like you don’t have to have all of these complicated tracking. You just have to have … It’s like blocking and tackling. It’s like jump stops and pivoting. It’s back to the basics, right?

Anthony Mink:

You’re 100% correct. There are some fundamentals in e-commerce that you absolutely must have in place without a shadow of a doubt. Email being one of the tops in my opinion. You’ve got to have some type of diversified email marketing strategy set up where you’re emailing customers when they purchased, post-purchase. You got to have some pre-purchase, lead generation, nurturing campaigns. You’ve got to have some win-back campaigns.

You’ve got to have these fundamental things in place, but one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in the past is feeling like I needed to have all of these different things built out in order to start moving forward, to go to paid traffic, to scale my advertising, spend on devious types of things, and I just found that it’s not the case, and so often, like I was … I was listening to Richard Branson’s new book called “Finding My Virginity,” and he talks about this idea of just-in-time management.

He is like, “Often, as an entrepreneur, especially when you’re starting a new business, you operate everything on just in time. Your inventory arrives just in time. Your products, the right people, like everything happens just in time.” I found that to be so true in my personal business because it’s just … like if you’re playing the long game, your goal is to just do one more thing every single day and just to continue to keep planting more seeds every day.

We’ve got 15 different automated behavioral dynamic email auto-responders set up at this point in time. When we started, we had zero, and the only way that I’ve got to 15 is I’ve worked on them proactively week after week for the last 18 months, so I think it just takes time. The biggest things that I see holding people back are feeling like they need to get all of these different things done before they can really get started.

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

I just think it’s not true. We’re a perfect example of attribution. Here we are spending tens of thousands of dollars every single month on paid ads and generating millions of dollars in sales, and we don’t have a good attribution model. That’s not an area where I’m strong, and I’ve just made the strategic decision that I’m going to focus on areas where I’m weak, and I’m going to find and hire people to fill the weaknesses when we have the resources to do that.

JD:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, people ask me all the time like, “All right. What did you do when you got started? Did you go get a business license? Did you get yourself tax license?” I’m like, “Are you kidding me?”

Anthony Mink:

I went and got a paycheck.

JD:

Yeah, like …

Anthony Mink:

I sold something.

JD:

I sold something. See if you can sell it to a complete stranger online, and if you do, like celebrate, and jump up and down, and go high-five somebody, and go have a piece of cake. They’d be like, “I don’t know. It’s a big deal.” I can probably get in trouble, but I didn’t have a lot of that business setup stuff for months because I was just running in marketing and figuring out, and then you got a whole another problem, right? If you can actually sell it and you’ve got a great message to market fit, then you’re going to have a supply chain problem because you really want to dump the money in the top end of that funnel, and then you got to get something to sell them.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah.

JD:

It’s like it’s a never-ending thing. It’s wonderful though.

Anthony Mink:

There’s very distinct like stages of a business. You can look at it and draw the metaphor to stages of growth, right? You have like a newborn baby. Then, you have a toddler. Then, you have an adolescent. Then, you have a young adult. Like business goes in these very similar stages, and the early stage of business is all about making money. It’s about providing a value for your customers, taking care of your customers, and for us, as an example, for the first year, all we focused on was getting the data and trying to make enough sales to stay alive.

We took a substantial loss in 2016 because that was all of our development time, and Spence and I were in a little bit of a different position because we had some personal cash that we were able to invest and some other income sources that we were able to leverage while getting the original R and D, and stuff going with Live Bearded, but all of 2017, the only thing we really focused on was, “How do we create a lifetime value off a customer, and how do we acquire more customers?” Like that was it.

Now, in 2018, like I know what got us here isn’t going to take us where we want to go, and so now, we need to invest in … Like right now, we’re hiring an operations manager, someone who can come in and create standard operating procedures and organization, and like actually create some systems because right now, we don’t have anything. Right? We’ve been so focused on getting sales to earn enough money to then hire someone to do our operations, to do, and handle, and create systems and organization in these types of thing. I think, everyone, if you’re listening to this, your first job is to sell something, and then to sell it again, and again, and again, and again. If you can sell it enough, then you can afford to use some of those cash assets to then go hire help.

JD:

Ah, so good. You guys use third-party logistics or third-party fulfillment company, or do you do it with your team?

Anthony Mink:

We do. Yeah. I’m a huge fan of paying other people to do what they’re great at so I can do what I’m good at.

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

We use a company called “ShipFusion.” They’re actually based out at Toronto, but they have an office and headquarters in Chicago. Highly, highly recommend them. If anyone needs a 3PL, ShipFusion.com. They’ve been excellent to work with.

JD:

Awesome. That’s great, so the future. You just said it. What got you to where you are today isn’t going to get you to the next level. Talk to me about how you think about R and D, and new product development. This will be like the last thing that we talk about today.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. I think the future is … You always have to be anticipating where you need to go to stay ahead of market trends, to stay relevant. For us, we are really focused on developing a core line of beard grooming products with some core fragrances. We’re at that point now where we have five variations of fragrances. We’ve got our core line of products. 2018 is a big product development year for us. We are going to look at what other types of bathroom grooming style products we could use. I don’t want to let too many cats out of the bag, but hair products as an example.

JD:

Sure.

Anthony Mink:

We’re in the process of custom-formulating and developing some hair products and really looking at what other … What does our customer do before or after they use our products? This is a good exercise for anybody listening to do. Sit down with a pad, and a pen, and a piece of paper, and think about when your customer use your product, uses your products, and what do they do immediately before and immediately after? There are some product line extension opportunities there and/or potential joint venture partnerships, or affiliates, or whatever that you could work with. For us, we’ve really analyzed that process. We’ve got a really clear understanding of what types of products we want to bring to market, and then we also surveyed our audience and said, “What else would you like us to make?” We’ve got a really clear understanding of that as well.

2018 is a big product development year for us. We’re actually bringing … All of our team is virtual right now, so a big part of the future for us is we just relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. As I said, I’m in Scottsdale right now. In 2019, we’re opening up an office. We’re actually moving all of our team from … One guy is in New York. One guy is in Chicago. One guy is in Pittsburgh. One guy is in Missouri. We’re moving everyone out to Phoenix and everyone from this point on, we’re hiring in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. I’m going to create just a badass bearded HQ.

We’re also looking at trying to get our feet wet in the retail space. A lot of really great e-commerce companies have mastered the art of acquiring customers online, and then have diversified acquisition through local retail, and so we’re doing a lot of exploration of that model and seeing how it may or may not fit us, but those are our three big initiatives to product development, pulling our team together, and actually bringing everybody together to grow and to work in one place. We talked about brotherhood before, and we’re going to create our own little brotherhood at the Live Bearded HQ, and then looking at what retail opportunities might exist. We’ve got some outside sales stuff that we’re doing right now that we’re trying to get into retail that way, and then even thinking about opening up our own retail shop.

JD:

Nice, so you are pursuing wholesale channels to get into …?

Anthony Mink:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JD:

Okay. Very good. That’s great, man. Well, I got to tell you. This has been fun, Anthony. What’s the best way to get in touch with you if somebody wants to check out your products or connect with you?

Anthony Mink:

Yeah. I don’t do like a lot of like stuff on social media from a business standpoint. Like I could tell you to follow me on Facebook or Instagram, but I really like I got a couple hundred followers because those are just my friends and family.

JD:

Yeah.

Anthony Mink:

The best way to really reach out to me and ask anything business related is anthony@livebearded.com. Just go ahead and feel free. Anyone who’s listening to this, if you have questions or anything that you would like to ask me about, anthony@livebearded.com is going to be the easiest way.

JD:

Fantastic. Well, hey, I appreciate it, brother, and I wish you continued success. I can’t wait to check in with you in six months and in a year, and the next time I am in Phoenix, I get out there two or three times a year, I’m going to have to look up your new HQ when you guys get that rocking.

Anthony Mink:

Yeah, man. I would love to connect and would love to do a followup in a bit of time if the listeners enjoyed this and want to hear how things are going in 6 to 12 months. I’d love to do a followup for them.

JD:

That’d be great. All right. Thanks, Anthony. We’ll talk soon.

Anthony Mink:

All right. Thank you very much. Talk to you later.