eCommerce Fastlane

Healthy Shopify Ecommerce Growth: Why you need it and How to Achieve It with Ken Ott of Metacake

EP 10

 In today’s episode, my guest is is Ken Ott, the co-founder Metacake. They are a growth team and a Shopify plus agency partner that helps Shopify brands of all sizes achieve healthy and long-lasting business growth. They offer coaching and advisory services for internal teams or executives and founders and has an accessible library for starting out brands.

Tune in to this episode to learn more about Metacake

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​​Our North Star is to inspire founders and marketers to accelerate growth through podcasts and strategic insights. Each week, Steve Hutt and his Shopify Expert guest discuss the latest and current marketing strategies to accelerate growth and scale in 2022. You’ll learn how to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue, and build lifetime customer loyalty for your Shopify-powered online store. Today’s episode gets you one step closer to learning from those who are winning in e-commerce!

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What You Will Learn Today:

  • What Metacake is, how they started and what they do to help Shopify brands
  • Building a relationship with your customers
  • The importance of a great website

Links and Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Ken Ott:

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This episode is brought to you by Okendo the preferred customer marketing solution for high growth Shopify brands. OKendo was helping over 4000 of the fastest growing retailers such as Kim Kardashian, underwear label skims Nomad and Buck Mason to leverage their most powerful asset their customers. Oh Kendall gives brands all the tools they need to capture and showcase customer generated content like product ratings and reviews, photos and videos, including q&a. When you’re looking to optimize your buyers journey, increase the volume and the quality of user generated content and build a flourishing customer community or collect valuable first party customer data. Oh kendo is here to help you. Okendo is your all in one customer command center where you can track report on and optimize every aspect of your customer marketing. But they also offer many seamless integrations with the tools that you already use and love, including CLEVEO, Google and Zendesk to name a few. Join 1000s of Shopify retailers who already use kendo to build sharper trust and excitement showcasing customer experiences and compel buying action. Start your 14 day free trial today. At Okendo.io. That’s Okendo.io.
Well, hey there, it’s Steve Hut and welcome back to season five of E commerce Fastlane. Now, this is your first time listening. This is an E commerce show where we have honest and transparent conversations about building and thriving with your store powered by Shopify or Shopify. Plus, if you’re an ambitious, lifelong learner, which you likely are, since you’re here today, you’re definitely in the right place. Now new episodes are available twice weekly with your favorite podcast players like Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google Play Spotify, and many more. You can also stream current episodes including a very relevant back catalogue directly from E commerce fast lane.com.
Now on today’s episode, my guest is Ken OTT, who’s the co-founder of a company called Metacake. Now there are a Shopify Plus agency partner, I’ll give some links in a few minutes. It’s interesting, they really are a growth team, and they’re helping Shopify brands of all sizes. And I’m gonna note this to achieve healthy and long lasting business growth. It’s very specific in the language here healthy and long lasting business growth. They’ve been doing this for over 10 years.
They’ve also helped a lot of the most influential brands in the world have gone to their landing page, both on the Shopify site and on their own many case studies, a lot of notable Shopify brands are trusting in their marketing skills. I guarantee you this is going to be a very impactful conversation. For a lot of great learnings. I know at the end of the episode, we’ve also Ken’s been very kind to offer a very exclusive listener only free promotion, I know is going to be very valuable for those listening today. So I can welcome to e commerce Basslink.Steve, great to be here. That was a beautiful intro. I hope I can live up to that. But ya know, it’s awesome to be here. It’s been a long time coming, actually.Absolutely. It has been. So I’d love to always hear it in the founders own words about the particular challenges and problems that they’re solving for Shopify brands. And you’ve notably, you know, stuck your heels in the sand and said, No, this is what we do. And this is why we do it well. And we’re going to talk about a lot of the basics and things like that, that are important for a brand to be successful today in E commerce.So wish would love to understandable Metacake and problems that you’re solving just come more on a high level first.Yeah, absolutely. And you can feel free to kind of direct me and dig into some things. But I would say, you know, like you said Metacake, our goal is to be an Ecommerce growth team to brands of all sizes, really. All right. And so we’re sort of a hybrid agency, and we’ll kind of go into it. But we have our sort of one on one agency like services that are tailored for larger or funded brands, but we also offer coaching and advisory services for internal teams or executives and founders. And we also have a library of education both paid and free. That can be used for brands of all sizes, especially if you’re just starting out. And that’s kind of how we kind of helped fulfill our mission to really be an E commerce growth team for lots of different brands, lots of different businesses have different sizes, some of which that we can work one on one with. And the reason you know, we kind of come at it from this experience. And so we’ve been in E commerce, probably almost 20 years.But you know, I’ve been doing it almost 20 years personally, but we’ve been there 10 plus years and served brands of all different sizes. And that kind of, we end up having a lot of experience, both on the sort of tactical side of like, what does it mean to market? And how do you build a really strong ecommerce store that communicates brand, and that converts and does all the technical stuff as well, especially on Shopify Plus, but also, we understand from the business side, and I’ll sort of end this little area with you know, we have a capital arm where we acquire and invest in E commerce, native brands of certain sizes. So we’re running and advising real retail businesses that we also own. And so all that kind of lends itself to, we have this experience that we try and leverage to really help grow businesses into brands. And I can dig into that. But you know, we call them brands that matter brands that like that actually have great products, and do really great business, which is great, give back stuff and that kind of stuff, but just like Great products, great business, and that really has a positive impact on the world. So yeah, that’s a little bit about Metacake. We’ve been the Shopify, by the way, I think, since since 2010, or 2011, or so.And so like one of probably the I think we were one of the original kind of partners, when program started, we just love Shopify, it’s our platform of choice. It’s so well built, so that you don’t have to worry about the things I don’t preach to the choir, but you don’t have to worry about the things that that you shouldn’t have to worry about as a business in the market, or they just handle that kind of stuff. And where, you know, 1520 years ago, when we’re doing it, it’s like you had a few wanted to be in EECOM, it was massively expensive. And you had a team of 50 engineers, that would scale up on Black Friday, right to make sure the website didn’t go down. And when you want to run a promotion, you had to go through all these different things to do that. And now it’s it just becomes really easy. And sometimes maybe too easy. We forget about, you know, some of the way it was. So anyway, that’s a little bit about Metacake.Yeah, cool. Cool. This is like, yeah, thanks for sharing that just needs to have a little bit of high level first, again, just understand, and it’s really interesting that you know, that you really truly are a hybrid agency, like I’ve jotted some notes here, but having coaching and advisory things and education things and then you know, in actually putting your you and other people’s money towards acquisition of, you know, brands that are wanting to scale out maybe a Shared Equity model or a complete buyout. There’s, there’s so many opportunities out there. And I think it almost appears to me that you have like boots on the ground, like you’re doing the work. But you also appreciate the work of other people, and you might even want to acquire them. So it’s interesting how that can all flow together.

What’s interesting about the Shopify ecosystem kind of in general, is just the origin story, I just, I always find very fascinating. He’s mentioned you’ve been doing econ for, personally for like, almost 20 years. And so you have a lot of that kind of practical experience. But like, how did all the pieces come together and saying, okay, it’s fine that I’ve done this over here in econ, both personally and just, you know, kind of doing my thing. But then, like, how did it move forward and simple, like, I want to build a team of people to help others in E commerce. And so I just like to understand how all the expertise and how it all came together into like an actual brand of Metacake.

Yeah, I mean, I kind of grew up, I had the benefit of growing up, right in the.com, boom, I’m certainly not an agency person. That’s by no means a bad thing. But I come at it from a slightly different perspective in, I grew up building businesses using technology and marketing. And just I was always infatuated with business. And the idea that you could use technology all of a sudden to create a business, grade the business in just a day doesn’t mean it’s successful. But you could create the concept. You can use technology to put a website together to have a product to sell things. And it’s kind of like traditional business on hyperdrive. Like that was always just so fascinating to me. I think that’s the power of that. And so I kind of grew up in that era and fell in love with building businesses and helping businesses leverage technology and sell things. And so I had my first business back in high school and just kind of never looked back from there. And then I guess over time, I actually grew up in New York City. And right now we live in Nashville, and we’ve had for 15 years and we’re staying here. My opinion the best place in the US. Although they kick you out if you don’t play guitar, so you’d have to- Funny story, like several people in our team are like, very legit touring musicians on the side that a lot of people probably see on stage. It’s just part of being in Nashville. But anyway, I was always infatuated with that stuff. And so when we had the opportunity back when many He was founded, we actually founded around a portfolio of companies. And we had some seed investment in Angel investment.

We had venture capital, and we were there around commerce companies, we were formed to grow that portfolio. And then over time, we began to help brands do the same type of thing. So that’s how we were born and founded. And over time, we matured in our agency side of things. And really, we got into, you know, when Shopify came around, back in like that 2011 era really figured out, wow, we don’t have to, you know, build this up from scratch, we can leverage a platform, and then really put brain power when the business model and the marketing and the brand and the product and all these different areas and not have to sink it into technology. And that just took off and helping brands kind of leverage that was a big part of what we did for and what we still do for a really long time. And then over time, we have largely the same team over the last 10 plus years. And they consist of sort of deep specialists with a lot of experience, especially with really big brands, I think what that lends itself to is we can often be trusted, you know, our our goal is to be able to be trusted by a brand that’s doing 100 200 $300 million through their website and be able to, that’s real money, right? Those people want to know that the people advising them and working on their stuff, have real experience and know the importance of it. We take that really seriously. And that’s kind of what we’ve been invested into overtime.

Pivot a bit to a little bit of tactics, I think I think this is probably a good time to talk about what’s hot right now. You know, and I know, you talk a lot about, well, it’s kind of funny what you talk about, because I’ve listened to on other shows, and I see some writing and stuff like that. And you say things about like, you know, boring is hot, right? I wonder if you can come at no one ever. I know like it. But it’s weird. It’s weird. But interesting. I think I know where it’s going. I think it’s getting back to basics. I think a lot of times there’s this shiny object syndrome, and there’s lots of like, an app is going to solve my problems. And then you wonder why three or four years later that you have this duct tape solution? And you wonder why things aren’t talking to each other. And you wonder why there’s a lot of what ifs to building a successful brand. And I think you bring it down to the ridiculous and saying no, I’m there’s some basic things that need to get done. I think that’s where this term boring is hot, but I just wouldn’t, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But I just love to hear your concept around this whole thing and explaining like what really, truly hot right is now.

No, you’re absolutely right. I mean, to us, boring is hot. That is the hot thing right now. And I would say especially right now, like that’s been our philosophy of this idea of called healthy growth over fast growth. But that’s been our philosophy for a long time. And I think it’s more important now that potentially than ever, and I’ll sort of explain why. But it’s the idea of like, like you mentioned, it’s shiny object syndrome. And there’s this, obviously, the rise of like growth, hacking, all the kind of stuff. And that’s not necessarily bad, but what happens is, we find in the marketing, especially ecommerce world, you know, there are a lot of hacking your way to growth, because this idea of like, oh, there’s just app, or there’s just tactic, or there’s this thing, you know, that we can just do. And, you know, I heard someone did this, and they got amazing results out of it. So let’s do that.

That’s not to say that that thing is bad. I think that there’s definitely a place for those. But I think Hacking has to have a place inside of a healthy strategy, if that makes sense. I think sometimes it’s really, you know, we all do it like, but it’s just really tempting to live hack to hack. And even, you know, really big, mature 100 year old companies tend to sometimes do that in their e commerce side of things. And so boring is hot is doing all the fundamentals, you know, and the truth is, is, you know, while hack may produce results, it’s not typically going to be the thing that creates a stable, highly profitable, scalable business long term that takes consistent effort and fundamentals. In order to do that.

Everyone’s kind of looking for shortcuts. And I think there’s a place for shortcuts. But the problem is, you know, for instance, Facebook for a long time was like the place to get new customers. And it was the easy way to acquire new customers. And so everything centered around Facebook, and Facebook hacks and strategies and all kinds of targeting things and whatever else. That’s all good. But at the end the day, if you didn’t have a healthy Facebook strategy, when Facebook changed some of what they changed with privacy and all that kind of stuff last year, and was a long time coming, like a lot of brands saw a massive, massive impact of a negative one because of that. And, and if you did, it was probably because you didn’t see that coming necessarily, maybe all your eggs were in the wrong basket. So I think it’s just important to have, you know, a healthy strategy. Are we doing the right things for long term growth? And then, you know, where are the shortcuts that we can take it inside of that right now.

I did more research obviously because that’s my job as a host. But you know, one thing I well you have to write and the thing was, I noticed that you have Very interesting framework that I’ve not seen articulated in this particular way. And I think for me, it’s very important. I think that we share that with the audience today, because I want to make sure there’s some actionable takeaways, the fact that, hey, you know what, I agree with you that, you know, boring is hot, I understand getting back to basics and doing the fundamentals, I think all these things are really important. I totally agree with you, when you’re saying that, hey, there are places for interesting tools that could help with the overall strategy and what you’re trying to achieve. But as long as we’re executing well, in the basics, and I believe there’s a lot of brands that are not executing well, on the basics, just me I manage a book of business, and I can see things that need to be improved every month on my calls. And that’s kinda what my role is to be a trusted advisor.

That’s kind of the main thing, I find what you have, it’s quite interesting as its framework, I’d love for you to maybe explain what it is. And then I’d like to understand a little bit. And then people can put themselves in the shoes of a brand and going, Okay, this is where I am now. And then how do I get to the next level? How do I improve? How do we move the needle? And I know this framework that you’ve created for this healthy growth, I think it’s very impactful. So people can pause, be intentional and say, No, I’m here. And how do I go to the next step, the next step, or the next step, and so love to learn more for you to share out but these different stages.

I’ll be happy to and in fact, we actually have a 90 day program that walks you through, like if you are a business that wants create healthy growth that kind of walk you through this framework. And we could drop links in the show notes to that if we wanted to. But it’s really simple. So like, the question is like, yeah, like, everyone’s like, I want to be healthy, right? Just like in physical fitness, right? Like, I want to be fit and healthy and live a long life. Awesome. But that means you know; I can’t eat what I want to eat all the time. Customers, right. So it’s the doing of it, that’s hard. And it’s, you know, making sure that you can still enjoy life. Like, obviously, you could live a long life, you know, and only salad, but like that may not be enjoyable. So it’s that balance. And so what we’ve tried to do is over the years put together a little framework, and we call it the three by three framework. And so it’s how do you kind of implement and achieve healthy growth. And so in our world, and actually, in the E commerce world, we break it down to three key systems. And so the first key system to any e commerce business or any DTC businesses acquisition, and so you have to get your acquisition system healthy and functional, right, there’s the acquisition system. And there’s the conversion system, which is taking, you know, obviously, someone who’s a prospect, and actually converting them into a buyer, and that has several steps inside of it. And that obviously, your website and your e commerce Store is a big part of that. The third system is what we call maximization. And this is one that I find rarely gets focused on. And it really is the leverage for real growth. And any global brand that’s been around for a really long time has really, like mastered the maximization and what maximization is, is that is taking someone from a onetime purchase, and maximizing them, right. So like, you’ve got a customer, often say like, and your customers the finish line for maybe some people, but that’s the starting line, right? Like getting a customer, and you’ve taken from customer, you really want a fan, you really want a multi purchaser fan for life. That’s what you want, right. And so that’s maximization, that’s what we call that these three systems. And we have, you know, tactics, and hacks and all these kinds of things inside of the systems. And that’s kind of the place for those hacks is to do that. And then the other side of the side of the three is for each one of the systems, we take it through three stages that we have this kind of discipline of stage one is stabilize. And so it’s, you know, let’s take acquisition, for an example, right, your acquisition system, let’s do an assessment. And let’s figure out where all the duct tape is. When we started, you know, we duct tape a bunch of things, right? Because we’re not sure this is a business yet. And we want to get to viability and right. At some point, you have to remove that duct tape. But the challenge is, if you don’t take the time to do that, and you just keep moving the content you in the future, aside from duct tape, there’s a bunch of vulnerabilities potentially, right? Like, oh, wow, 80% of our acquisition comes from just Facebook. That is a vulnerability. What if Facebook goes away? I mean, just if you’re an E commerce business, right now, ask yourself the question like, What if Facebook went away tomorrow? What would I do? Would I be able to live and be even a business anymore? That’s a good question to ask, right? So let’s stabilize. It’s like, assess everything, and take note and figure out okay, let’s, let’s prioritize what we’re going to do, what are the big vulnerabilities? What are the things that can be done in the future, and then the second stage is optimized. And so here, we’re looking for quick wins that fund the long term growth. And so when we do our assessment, we may see a bunch of low hanging fruit, right, that we can quickly sort of fix and maybe even some opportunities that we can growth hack inside of that system. So with acquisition, right, you may be looking at how can we leverage other platforms really quickly, right if we’re all on Facebook, like how

We quickly test other platforms, maybe we can get a more stable Facebook strategy, maybe we start doing YouTube, the multitude of things you can do there. And then the third step is called strengthen. And this is where you’re really looking at the future and doubling down on the future. And so you’re doing things like, really, you’ve got the funds, because you’ve kind of gone through this process, and you’ve optimized some things, you’ve gotten low hanging fruit, you have the funds to invest into maybe trying out, you know, again, we’re looking at acquisition system, maybe we’re investing in a channel that may not have immediate return. But we think, if we could figure this out, would be really good for diversifying our marketing channels, you know, things like r&d, like developing our product line that might go into strengthen, and so on. And so we kind of take each one of those three systems, and we kind of look at it in those three stages. That’s kind of how we break that down.

Yeah, like that. So just for clarity, again, I wrote some notes here. So there’s the acquisition system, the conversion system, and then there’s the maximization system when the maximization I’m thinking more like retention and lifetime value, hence why there’s, you know, retention managers on teams, because I think smart EECOM brands actually realize the fact that exactly, you’re right with what’s going on Facebook right now. And this cookie less future and iOS updates and privacy policies is so interesting, what’s going on with a row as it’s quite expensive now, and it’s really changed. And it’s unfortunately, a blended row as well, the only way that people can say, well, we spent this much money equals this much revenue, and how do we attribute it all?

Well, and that’s where it’s really challenging, versus the retention manager’s job to think about. And that’s exactly what you’re doing here is you’re giving a system and a process and stages to think about in the retention side of the business. And I think there’s a model out there, it was RFM, recency, frequency monetization, understanding the cohorts of your existing customers that are active, or that are at risk, or that potentially are going to churn and trying to figure out an interesting challenge of how to figure out to have the right playbook of how to interact with a customer based on their lifecycle in the brand, but it’s getting that second sale, or the third sale is quite interesting.

Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. I don’t think in my experience, a lot of people think about their e commerce business in those three systems. But those three systems are not only ecommerce related, but if you can kind of start to think about that that way, then it starts to allow you to take strategies to improve them. And really, like you said, like that maximization bucket, that’s where you go from having your growth capped, to really being able to scale your brand and your business, you figure that out really well, that does a lot of things for your business.

So I’ll make sure I put some links in the show notes. I think there’s lots of really neat things. I know you have this 90 day kind of program and kind of these healthy growth challenges that you have. And so I’ll put some details for that. So people are interested in Yes, I want to grow my brand, but I want to do it in a healthy, consistent way for long term building purposes. So I’ll make sure I put links to that.

Also thinking a little bit about you mentioned about back to basics. And I kind of understand that. And there are some mission critical things or foundational things that are important. I think those are table stakes in econ today. But is there anything else that maybe we can chat about outside of the foundational things that you believe could be impactful today for a brand?

Yeah, and some of these things are going to be like, obvious, I’ll name two really quick but one is diversifying your marketing channels. Like if you’re an econ business, unfortunately, a lot have been hit hard already by a lot of the Facebook and privacy changes and Google changes and those kinds of things that have happened over the last year and two years. But that’s super important, right? Most ecommerce businesses live on that direct advertising, I think diversifying to own channels, or even just bouncing and transitioning on channels is critical. And own channels would be things like email marketing, you know, affiliate marketing, influencers, ambassadors, those kinds of things. But just let’s take email, we do a lot of strategy and management of E commerce email programs. And it’s our philosophy, that email should be about 30% or more of your revenue should come through your email program. And most brands are a lot less than that, we’ve seen it be a lot higher. And honestly, the higher it can be the better Some think emails dead. Some think email is booming. Doesn’t matter if I want to own my destiny as a business, you know, what marketing channel can I own? Really, one of the only ones is email, right? Where you don’t have to pay percent, you know, and owning the customer data is important. That’s been the case for years and years before ecommerce even existed, like your business worth is really your customer database. And so if you think about, I’ll ask this question like, who knows more about your customer? You or Facebook?

Wow, it’s Facebook, which probably is, yeah, probably is based on all their data points. So they know what their data points right? Correct. That’s obviously you’re not going to necessarily need to know more than Facebook? But do you even know the basics? And are they in your customer database? And can you talk to your customers and your non customers, right? Because through email, like we emphasize a lot on the pre purchase, experience an email, can you talk to those people, and really build a relationship, get people to buy over and over again, you know, get people to become fans of your brand, and have something to talk about with them. If you can develop a channel like that, like that is really important, because it’s owned, and it doesn’t cost money every time you send it, building your brand. And having a purpose is also critical. And that sounds cliche, so I’m happy to dig into it, because it’s more than just being cliche, but that’s the other thing I had in my mind.

Yeah, I know, and I think it’s interesting, though, because when I think about this, too, I don’t necessarily have this sort of framework. But I definitely think about some of the basics. I also think about like, the next steps of the long term value of the brand and lifetimes I pull back and go, okay, like, what are you known for? Like, what makes you unique? I think this is all part of maybe almost a business case for building a brand, like, What’s their purpose? What’s the why? I mean, on my wall, I have, like a big sign on my wall says remember your why starring purpose, humility and goals like, that is like the number one reason why people want to buy, they just they want to understand is there like, what’s the emotional connection to the brand. And if you don’t have that, you don’t have a mission. Or if you don’t have some kind of like, philanthropy, if you don’t have some kind of a social or environmental cause around your brand. I mean, that’s what really helps differentiate yourself.

It’s very noisy econ world out there. And there’s a lot of copycats, but there’s one way that I believe you can really differentiate and I kind of talk a lot with my brands, and in their early stages, saying like, what are you known for right now? I mean, like, okay, great. You’re a coffee replacement company, and you mix it up in the morning, you do your thing? Okay, fair enough, maybe to get off caffeine. But like, other than that, like, where’s the product sourced from? And what’s the story behind that? Because people want to buy into that in today’s market.

Right. So Well, you mentioned the business case for building a brand. And I think that for a lot of leaders, especially, you know, C level, there needs to be a business case for doing anything. And for a long time, you might even think building a brand is like kind of an intangible, nice to have, like, you know, that touchy feely thing, you know, it’d be nice if we did, but when we need to sell product, you know, right? If you think about like that, I would love to shift your mind for a second, right? If anyone listening thinks about it that way. Because if you think about your product and what you sell, right? You mentioned it, Steve, like anyone can rip that off. You can have a patent it up and all kinds of protection, all kind of stuff. It doesn’t matter. Like Does anyone remember? TiVo?

Right? Ideal but yeah, yeah, I remember TiVo. It was like you could record live TV and skip the commercials. I’m assuming they had patents and all kinds of things, right. But then, you know, cable companies started doing it and TiVo went away. I’m not saying that’s unavoidable. But if you think about it, like as cool as your product is, as powerful as it is, that is not the competitive barrier, it’s not going to be your competitive advantage. your competitive advantage. If it’s your brand is much harder to rip off. What knockoff of Apple can really hold a candle Apple, I’m talking about like an actual knockoff, right? Other people create laptops, all that kind of stuff. But there’s only one apple, then even if people copy Apple, Apple, stills, Apple. And so the business case for building that brand, the question becomes how you do that there’s a process for doing that. But building that brand is important. And then you mentioned your why and so starting, you know, where does the nugget the soul of the brand come from? It has to be your why, again, that can be seen as cliche, right, Simon Sinek start with why amazing book, most people have listened to the TED talk and maybe even read the book.

Most people understand it, if you haven’t read that or listened to, he probably should, but most people understand it. But here’s why it’s important. Like if you understand your why, and I think for some brands, like we do a lot of kind of advising for obviously ecommerce businesses and brands in this stage, where they’re actually trying to develop a brand for something they feel like, okay, we have to have a y that’s like, very socially oriented and give back and all that stuff. And that is all very, very good. But I would even say, Steve, you can debate me on this. It doesn’t even have to be that. In fact, if you start with that, it’s probably for most brands, it’s not genuine. If they start with that, like your why doesn’t necessarily to build a great brand have to be socially oriented. It just has to be genuine like why did you start this company? Why is this product so important? And what’s the story behind it? Like you have a story behind it right? Like every great product has a story as to why it came about. It’s you build a brand around that and brand then becomes aspirational. And that’s a big part of why people purchase products, people purchase, take action based on emotion, and they make decisions with information. So we have to create that emotion like that motion is generally aspirational, right? Think about when you want something, or when you buy something, the process you go through, I just went through it with the new MacBook, I’m an Apple fan, but like most people aren’t right. But like, I want that MacBook, like the credit, the emotion that I just want, it does not logic and wanting it necessarily at that stage, you just want it like new cars, same kind of thing, right? Like, you feel that want that desire that has to be there, it’s actually the more powerful thing. And then all the other stuff that features and benefits and everything, all that stuff is really just backing up the person’s logical side of their brain so that they can actually rationalize buying it. But a lot of brands, a lot of ecommerce brands, like just live in that world.

Anyway, it transitions into your marketing clearly. But having a brand suffice to say is, I think a big part of having a competitive advantage in the space, you may not be able to create that from day one. But you can create the temples of that. And you could just like make that consistent across everything you do and keep investing into it as you grow.

Yeah, I would agree with that. Because I think those listening today that we don’t really have a brand story, maybe you’re just so drop shipping right now maybe you’re just trying to get product market fit and kind of how you fit, it’s never too late to keep iterating and or choosing a path and having a story and documenting it and having on the website and you know, align that with, you know, your brand voice of colors, designs, your concepts, like just everything around your brand. It’s so interesting, where a lot of brands don’t have that. I love how you mentioned your competitive advantage by having that because then people want to get behind a brand. I mean, I think about even the influencer side of the business, like we talked about this multi-channel world and not putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket. It’s the same kind of concept when it comes to influencers.

Do you just want to pay influencers to kind of show off your product? Or do you want to find out people that already purchase your products that already love your brand want to work with you or you find out their social footprint is big enough that hey, I wouldn’t mind working with this person in some capacity, because they’re already a customer. And so it’s interesting way of thinking about it, you know, and so I just want to throw it out there that it’s never too late to tweak or build on what your why is, and what you want to be known for in the industry in whatever market that you’re involved in.

Absolutely. And I mean, if I may, I’ll say, if you were to translate that over to your let’s translate to practical like into your website, right into your eCommerce store, there are five steps you can take number one, tell your story. And you can do that really simply, you can do that on a page. Also, throughout think of the homepage, right? There’s this strategy for how you say that story through the homepage, you don’t overwhelm the customer, but you tell your story. Second is, you know, then you communicate, you sort of create the motion, now you start communicating benefits and value proposition, right. So that’s the logical side, the rational side, and you’re just doing that throughout, this is part of the strategy. Third, now we have to build trust, right. So now if someone wants it, they can see how it’s rational in their life. But do I trust you. And so building trust, obviously, customer reviews, what other people say about you is a critical part of that. But it’s not just customer views, it’s also being on platform, you know, sometimes people discount anyone get puts their credit card in anything? Well, that’s not true. Like being on a platform like Shopify, like making sure that it’s stable and trustworthy in your design of your store actually looks trustworthy, right? Because that’s a big part of it.

So building that trust for, you can eliminate the risk, or you want to eliminate the risk with an irresistible offer. And that’s things like price plus warranty guarantee, maybe it’s your customer service philosophy, if you can eliminate that risk, then now, you’ve got this irresistible offer, you’re sort of building on this, that’s step four. And then number five, if you want your website and your marketing, just to get out of the way and be really easy. right? Yeah. So that’s how you go from like, in, in our world, like simple five steps from going from like, how do I implement my brand onto, you know, something like my website? What does that mean? That’s how we do it.

Beautiful. I think it is a little pivot to a story now. I think it’s; I don’t know. It’s very aspirational when I. You know, hear what other brands have done with this podcast? I do a lot of interviews with agency partners like yourself in the Shopify world, and a lot of SAS kind of apps that connect to Shopify or even marketing platforms that connect to Shopify. And it’s so interesting. They always have a typical story, and hopefully I don’t put you on the spot here but it would be great if you could kinda talk a little bit about the brand. Found Metacake, like what was their life before Metacake? They found you and then you implemented something with them. I don’t know what that is yet.

And then what happened on the other end? It would be nice to kinda walk us through cuz there’s people listening today in the show and saying, Hey, you know what? I don’t have an agency partner right now. And this resonates with me about these different levels of how I can build a brand, this acquisition and converse. And the maximization systems you have is so interesting and there’s, and I’ve seen the case studies on your website, even on Shopify’s landing pages on the plus side of the business, I can see the case studies that are there since we’re in a podcast. I don’t, if you could maybe share one story around a brand that you have worked closely with and kind of what sort of results came out on the other end.

Yeah, absolutely. I’d be happy to. And obviously, I mean, I think it goes without saying that any success story has a lot of different factors inside of it. The story that comes to mind is there’s a brand called groove life. And they actually started selling they’re one of the first two Silicon ring brands, you know, and we don’t have probably enough time to get into, but like there are tons of Silicon ring brands, tons of Silicon rings and Silicon ring brands may not be the case for them. And the groove is at the top. And one of the tops, a big part of that, I would say 90% is their brand. And so that is one kind of example of the business case, but yeah, they, they actually came in, the founder just reached out to us, hold based on what we had done. Typically people come into our world through needing something like a website is often like your e-commerce store built on again, we do a lot of Shopify plus that’s typically how people come into our world, but, you know, maybe through marketing or something else, but he came in through that lens and he had just launched Kickstarter. The company was just a few months old and they had done a few hundred thousand dollars or something like that.

We still worked together. That was 2016. We wrapped around. Them. And he had a great vision, a great product in amazing leadership ability and a really, really, really strong reason why there are these factors that I think you need to be successful. And I think that’s one of them, but over the course of three years, we ended up hitting over eight figures.

And now we’re about to cross nine. So we went from about, you know, 300 K to over eight figures in the course of about three years. There are some things that I learned, cuz most people listening to something like that is like, great, cool. How do I do that? And I would say this. So for Metacake, like we did everything with them. We managed and redesigned and built all the store websites. We had a bunch of cool programs that we launched that were like, one of the barriers to entry for rings purchases is sizing. And so people don’t know their ring size. You can print out all the things that you want, but at the end of the day they have printable sizing guys and those kinds of things.

But Really works. And so we’re like, how do we remove that barrier entry? So we built this Tryon program kind of like Warby Parker, where you could order, I think, five sizes and you send back what doesn’t fit and you get charged only for that one thing. And that wasn’t Shopify native. So we built that all custom and that kind of thing and brought it back to Shopify. But so we did all this web stuff, but at the end of the day, I mean, we managed marketing and really created a lot of strategy and advisory and on the business and budgeting side, you know, cuz again, our world is not just in these marketing and tech buckets. Like we’re. On a business side of how do we make this thing work?

 

We did a lot of that type of stuff, but at the end of the day, like there are a few factors. I think that really made it successful and I’ll run through ’em real fast. Like one brand. Think about Silicon rings. Like you can buy don’t quote me on this, but like, you can get like 10 for like $5 on Amazon. Right? So there’s tons of knockoffs. We built heavily into the brand and there was a reason people purchased from them. Now our product is of higher quality. We did have some differentiators, but at the end of the day, like what we were about really is what won out over time. Second thing is the product line because you can’t live on just one product.

 

And so really quickly, we started investing into additional products for groove. It was creating active products, products that would allow an active person. To not be held down by, you know, whatever the apparel that they have and so rings and we’ve got belts and we’ve got watchbands and things. So those two things were critical because if you don’t invest into those two things, you really can flame out. Like you might be able to be a blip, but it’s hard to be a long term scaling brand. We took some risks on video before video was a big thing on YouTube, and that actually got us really great wins. And I think there’s still opportunity in YouTube and video. Because it’s hard to get into, which makes it more opportunistic marketing from the top down versus looking at ROS and worrying about ROS.

We generally look at marketing ad spend as a percent of revenue, and we have sort of a balance that we’d like to see that within. And so not getting caught up in the attribution weeds, which is by the way, a worthless effort. I mean, it’s good to look at, but it’s, it’s just, you’re gonna be spinning circles. We had a great. So we had this idea of like, you know, basically a lifetime warranty. Like you break it, you lose it. You don’t like the color. You were climbing Mount Everest and your finger fell off cuz it was frozen and you lost it. Like we’ll give back to you, you know, just send us an email. So we had that and the reason we could do that is because we had built the economics of the products, such that there was enough margin to do that, which is critical email was really, really big, especially in. Customer lifetime value. And so we really invested a lot into email and also played a role in building the brand that was a critical part. And then I’ll just end with the belief, the purpose and belief of the founder. You know, again, like we wrapped around him and that is typically the case. The business has to have the soul that’s gonna be successful.

And so, you know, it’s like, you want to get fit, right? Let’s say you’re grossly unfit and you want to become. Like you have to find a great trainer coach who has the ability and knowledge and the experience to do that. That’s what we aspire to be for brands, but you still have to have the conviction commitment. Within you to want it and to be able to do it right. I think it was Ziglar that says you can’t hire someone to do your own pushups. Right. So at the end of the day, yeah. Right. You, the expert, is really, really important at giving you the framework and helping you through it and helping you tackle all the things and motivating and inspiring and all those things, but you still have to be able to commit and have a reason to and that was a big part with groove.

Yeah, this is, oh, this is lovely. Like, thanks for sharing that. And I’m even on the groove life.com website right now, I’ll put the link in the show notes. It’s quite an impressive site that really showcases and, and I know video and it looks like there’s even some 3d rendered animations and things that really tell the story visually all the basic things that brand needs that not all have noticed too, talking about their value prop and their warranty, which you mentioned, you know, break it and will replace it. Like there’s no BS warranty. I just love the fact that they really get into their story born in Alaska and built in Tennessee. And they’re very specific about what they do. And you can learn more about the whole story behind groove life, the warranty, the breathability, and kind of like how it works and all the. It’s just, it’s very refreshing. When I look at this site, I’ve not been here in a while. There was quite a while back. I, I looked at it, but now that you mentioned it, it’s like, wow. And it’s nice how they’ve made slight pivots into other verticals too, outside of the Silicon rings and think, okay, there’s the watch band opportunity here through apple watches or there’s opportunity to get into the belt market.

These are all complimentary products that I know people would see value in. Once you get kind of hooked on one, it goes back to your maximization system. Again, how do we. Build that lifetime value, this retention marketing around a brand. And so they got a lot of these checks and balances in play. And thanks to your team, they did a phenomenal job. And it’s very clear, their growth is just incredible. So the website proves it so kudos to you and the team.

Well, like I said, Groove has an amazing product and a great founder and leadership, which is critical. All the roles that we play are helping to leverage that. And yeah, but you mentioned the product line. That’s just so important. You end up hitting a ceiling and you need to diversify. So you create an ecosystem for your brand versus just a one product brand.

I believe they have a customer in me coming up. I’ve actually just told my wife. I said, I think I need a new belt. And I’m like, well, where are you gonna shop for their belt belts? I know we look.

They did an amazing job. It’s an amazing bell. You should definitely get it. I’ll you do it?

I think after I finished recording today, I would love to chat before we kind of wrap up for today, but I just would like to understand the future. I mean, I know of Metacake cuz I’m always, it’s interesting to me that you’ve been in this industry a very long time.

You’re a tenured Shopify plus agency partner. So you’re, you know, at the top of the food chain of a small group of talented people that have been approved to be, and. With the Shopify plus world, you do work with other SMBs too, maybe on the core plans, but you know, it seems like your sweet spot is very clearly in the mid-market to enterprise. So knowing that I just would love to understand what your north star is. If, if you have one for the remainder of 22, and cuz what I wanna do is understand your current range of services and things you have. We talk about this, you know, these coaching options and there’s lots of education and there’s this capital available.

I just would like to truly just make sure I’m clear. This is what you do today. Is there anything that inspirationally you’re considering and gonna implement for the rest of this year? And, then could that be valuable to those listening today?

Yeah, I will try and break it down as simply there’s three basic areas, you know, for me, like my mission in life is to maximize what I’ve been given in this world. So my position, you know, whatever that may be knowledge, experience resources. Like I have a push in me to. Try and make the best with that and do the most with it. And create positive and good as well. So that flows into Metacake. Our goal is to work to our mission of becoming like the go-to e-commerce growth team, if you believe in our philosophies.

 

Right? And so there’s great partners out there. I’m friends with all of ’em. Everyone has a certain specialization and ours is in the experience category. And if you agree with our philosophies on how we grow businesses and how we do things, you know, we’re disciplined and we have a strong approach with those kinds of things.

 

And that’s the type of brand that works well with. And so what that means is we have, in the first area, we have one on one services. And so those are for mid to large, you know, enterprise and or funded businesses. So funded startups and those kinds of things. And we do website development. So your Shopify plus store, all that type of stuff, design development, we work in that world that obviously one of the most important, I mean, clearly it in the marketing.

 

A customer journey. That’s the most important part, right? That has to work really, really well. It has to communicate all the right things, obviously, functionally work well, all those kinds of things. So we do a lot there, a lot of migrations and optimization, that kind of thing. We also do a lot in the marketing strategy and services there.

 

So email marketing, paid marketing strategy. You know, growing that lifetime value, that’s big. So that’s our one-on-one service. If you’re with the right size, we also have education, secondary education and programs. And so we have a lot of free and paid programs. Some of those are books. You know, if you go to store.metacake.com, you can see some books that we’ve written, they’re called growth guides, they’re small growth guides.

 

We also do programs like we have an e-commerce boot camp, which we run anyone from starting businesses. Through, we’ve actually had teams of corporate businesses send their marketing teams through. So we have those kinds of things and those can serve any size business. That’s our educational side.

And then the third is our capital arm and we call that DOE cuz we’re Metacake and the capital arm is DOE. And so that is done. Capital. And we’re partnering with eCommerce brands that have positive traction and maybe you’re in that one. To 50 million range. I know that’s a big span, but that’s kind of like the range that we’d partner with. We wrap around them again, if it’s right, invest, acquire, and scale and exit. And so those are the three ways that we’re doing, trying to fill our mission.

Lovely. Well, thank you for sharing that. Once again, all these are gonna be in the show notes. I didn’t realize about the store because that’s really cool with the, with some, I love some of these. We got to have our own Shopify store. Absolutely you do. I love the e-commerce cookbook. You have these growth guides and, uh, some barrel wild and. All the ways you grow. It’s like, it’s pretty neat. You have some really neat stuff and even you have your own merch, so that makes a lot of sense. 

it’s the most comfortable t-shirt you’ll ever wear.

 

Guaranteed. You don’t like any, send it back. I might pull the trigger on that also. So just before we go today, I guess we’re gonna send people to Metacake.com will be kind of, I guess, the primary location. I know we have. Then, you have a lot of educational articles and things like that. I’ll make sure all those links go in there. I know that just before recording today, that I guess you mentioned you’d like to offer, I guess, a listener only bonus or a promotion. I don’t know if you, maybe this would be a good time to tell our listeners all about what’s available.

Absolutely. I would love to. And so, like I said, we spent a lot of time in the strategy of the customer experience and building websites that communicate, that do all the things that we said Shopify stores do. So what we’ve created is what we call the perfect eCommerce website. And it is a more than 70 pages PDF that goes through every one of the key core pages in your eCommerce experience from your homepage. Collection pages, product detail pages, you know, even to blogs, which you may think, oh, just blogs.

So there’s a strategy. It talks about the strategy for each one, what you really want to be doing, what you want to be communicating. And then it actually gives a wire frame for each one. And so you can see the elements. That you can kind of like almost pick and choose from like, so if you’re thinking about redesigning or if you’re thinking about replat forming to Shopify, or if you’re, you know, wondering, Hey, we’re having a conversion issue, you know, you can take this and again, eCommerce gods, didn’t give this to us and say, this is the formula for success.

This is our experience. What we’ve experienced in 10 plus years, formula for success. And it’s actually really just doing certain things. In the right order in your e-commerce experience. And so we’re giving that away. We actually, that’s a paid resource that we sell. We’re giving it away to e-commerce fast land listeners. And I would love feedback on it because we put a lot of effort into it. It’s our playbook for how we build the strategy, how we build websites. And so, yeah, we’ll. I guess include a link in the description, uh, in the show notes. Is that right, Steve?

Yeah, definitely. I have a landing page, so it’ll be e-commerce fast lane.com/ Metacake. That’s gonna redirect to your landing page with this offer to get access to, I’m gonna call it an epic piece of content, the perfect e-commerce website. It’s nice. How it’s all broken down. I’ve seen some. Parts of it. It’s quite interesting how it all breaks it down. And, and the ways of practically looking at each section one at a time and going well, how does it compare to what I’m currently doing? And is there room for improvement? And the answer is yes, there’s always something that you can improve upon the customer journey. And I think I thank you so much for offering that. It’s an amazing takeaway for those listening today. And I. You know, once again, thanks Ken, for, for coming on the show, I just, I’m excited.

Kind of like, you know, you just continue on your journey. I know that you’re doing amazing work and it’s very clear that you’re a very trusted partner for Shopify brands. It’s very clear your knowledge and your vision of how you want to continue helping brands. It’s nice that you’re in all areas.

 

Focused on silos, you really are on the education and the giving part, both paid and free. It’s interesting. The advisory and just the capital. You’re dabbling in lots of different areas, but I think that’s important, cuz I think you have a holistic view of what success actually looks like over the years.

Just wanted to thank you for coming to the show and sharing. And I hope we, we have some new brands that are now have never heard of Metacake now know of what you’re all about. Start with this guide and that may open up some doors for some new customers that you may be able to work with and help them grow their brands on Shopify.

Yeah. I mean, I, I super appreciate, thanks so much for having me on it was so much fun. I could talk about this for hours and yet may sound like we’re in, we are in a lot of areas, but I believe it really influences the actual growth in business, like you have to understand more than one area. And so I think that’s a big part of being able to, just to do what we do and kind of advice and implement inside of businesses.

And so, yeah, absolutely. If anyone likes what they hear from us or would like to talk or has a question or has a problem that they think of you. Whatever it is or feedback, you know, please reach out to me, reach out to my team. I’m on social @Imkenott. Yeah. And we’ll spell my own name, wrong, you know, Metacake.com, but yeah, just reach out to us and if we can help you at value, we absolutely will. And if we can’t, we will direct you the way we would see most fit. Yeah. So

beautiful. All right. Well, thank you so much, Ken, and have yourself a great afternoon.

Steve. Thank you so much.

All right. Today’s episode was brought to you by OKendo, the preferred customer marketing solution for high growth Shopify brands. Okendo provides all the tools you need to leverage your most valuable asset. Your customers build shopper, trust and excitement, showcase customer experiences and compelled buying action with a little help from Okendo. Start your free trial today at Okendo.io. That’s O K E N D O dot I. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I’d like to thank you. A loyal listener of e-commerce fast lane.

It’s my hope that this podcast is offering you a ton of value through growth strategies, tactics, and exclusive insider tips on the best Shopify apps and marketing platforms. All with my personal goal, to help you build, launch, grow and scale with shops. Thanks for investing sometime today and listening to the show. I’m so proud and excited that you have a growth mindset and are a constant learner. I truly appreciate you and your entrepreneurial journey.

Enjoy the rest of the week and keep thriving with Shopify.

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