Episode 140: Unstoppable Digital and E-Commerce Marketing with Will Deane
Steve: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you might be in the world today. This is your host Steve Shallenberger with the Becoming Your Best global leadership. We have a terrific guest today. He is a successful entrepreneur, particularly a digital marketing and e-commerce expert. He has built and scaled several multimillion dollar businesses specializing with results-based marketing. So this is going to be an interesting subject and he has an extensive experience and proven success both in building and maintaining startup businesses, so this is going to be a lot of fun. Welcome, Will Deane.
Will: Thank you Steve, I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to being here.
Steve: Good. Well before we get started, I’d like to tell you just a little about Will’s background. Like I mentioned, Will has built and scaled several multimillion-dollar businesses. His company, Unstoppable.com focuses…So Will is it Unstoppable or Unstoppable.com? What is that?
Will: It’s Unstoppable dot C-O, so Unstoppable.co.
Steve: Okay, good. Glad we got that. Well, it focuses on providing clients with real and measurable results by combining his expertise in paid search, social media, native advertising, and comprehensive retargeting to generate positive ROI. Optimizing it and then increasing a company’s overall bottom line. So that’s his focus. Well, that’s an exciting field, isn’t it, Will?
Will: Yeah, it’s definitely an exciting field. I mean, I like to tell people we’re your best salesman. But yeah, it’s up and coming and it’s definitely, you know, on the forefront of where all businesses are going.
Steve: Absolutely. We think about it every single day with all of our businesses. It’s a big deal. So to start us off, tell us a little about your background, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you. So yeah, what’s your story? I’d love to hear a little bit more about you.
Will: Sure. No, I appreciate that. So I’m an East Coast guy. I was born in Annapolis, Maryland. I went to the University of Delaware. I didn’t study marketing at all but I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. So I was always starting businesses when I was younger, whether that was fake IDs in high school or it was, you know, mowing somebody’s lawn. When the tech boom started to happen, I really wanted to get, you know, online and start developing businesses there. So I had a lot of failures at the beginning. When I kept failing, I decided I need to learn from a company or founders that have sold businesses before.
So I ended up at a startup in New York City called Yext – an amazing startup, they went public last year. I think I was number 15 or 20 on board and now they have, I think, over 1000 people and they’re publicly traded. So I had a lot of great learning experiences there. But the reason I worked there was to actually learn and get the confidence go back out on my own and start something. And so when I was about to leave, I started a company called Emergency Lights. Very, very niche in the e-commerce side of things and my business partner was actually out in California.
I ended up jumping ship and building another business in Los Angeles. We grew that business, several multimillion dollars in revenue. We had about 17 employees and I ended up selling that business in 2014. But what I took with me from Yext to there was really, how do you build a business online? So when I started that, we didn’t have much money to start it and so I had to figure out how to drive customers to the site, how to get them to purchase and how to create, you know, a greater average order value and things along that nature. So when I ended up selling it, I had done all of my own marketing. I just realized that hiring somebody outside wasn’t doing the job, so I needed to teach myself which was a big turning point in my life because it led me down the path of owning the marketing channel for anything I do which kept me learning.
So after we sold it, people were coming to me and saying, “Hey, could you help me grow our business?” You know, friends, colleagues. I wasn’t really trying to make it another business. Because we were performing so well for them, it kind of spun into this agency. I really say we’re an anti-agency because we’re not an agency model group. We really don’t do things the way agencies do. We really care about getting results for our clients. And so that ended up taking me into helping other people build their businesses and that’s where we are today.
Steve: Oh, that’s awesome. So it sounds like you’ve had setbacks, challenges, learning opportunities. That’s great. That’s how you gain experience. That’s how you can build a wheelhouse.
Will: Exactly. Yeah, I mean if you don’t have those experiences, you’re really not learning in my experience. You don’t realize it when you’re going through it. When you get the hiccups, or you get hit and go up against the fence, you don’t realize that it’s going to make you better. But I’ve had those experiences and because of those experiences, I am where I am today and we help crush it for businesses that couldn’t previously online.
Steve: Oh, that’s great. I love it. So how do you generate real and measurable results using marketing strategies to generate this positive ROI that you’re talking about to crush it? How do you do that?
Will: So we take a very unique approach when we work with our clients, whether it’s a B2B company, SaaS based business, local business or e-commerce, which I particularly love e-commerce. We look at the whole ecosystem, right? Where are you getting your customers is really the first thing that we try to dive into. So, what’s your current sales channel. Then we take that and we look at other sales channels online and we look at your customer experience. You know, how they find you? What products they’re adding to their shopping cart? How they’re going through checkout. Then we kind of step back and put our methodologies into that.
So without going into too much technical, because there’s a million different ways to go in here, we really try to optimize your current sales channel first to generate you more revenue. Then once we’ve done that, we allocate a small percentage of that to a new marketing budget and we start to test. Because if you’re currently getting customers, I’m sure we could improve that without spending money and that’s really how we make ROI. We’re like, okay look, you’re probably doing everything great but let’s double down on what’s working, let’s get rid of what’s not and then let’s put our testing protocols into what you’re doing. Maybe we test on Facebook. Maybe we test on Google AdWords. Maybe your email marketing needs to be optimized. There’s a lot of ways to grow without spending money first to put you in a better position as a company. Even if we have to look at your P&L or maybe get your cost of goods down. Like, what are some things from a business perspective you can be doing to increase your profit so that we can go about things from a marketing perspective and help you grow?
So we really look at the whole ecosystem and I think that any marketing company that doesn’t look at that is really setting up for failure because there’s not a one trick pony. It’s like, if you just focus on traffic from AdWords or whatever it is, you might increase that marketing channel but there are probably ways to improve the business overall that will create more revenue or more gross profit that can be put back into the right places to help you get in a better position as a company to grow.
One of the adages that I always think about, my dad told me, it’s like you never invest in a company that’s in debt, right? Which kind of coincides with when you’re playing defense, you’re not thinking properly. And if you’re not thinking properly, you’re not going to make the best strategic decisions for your business. So one of our goals right when we come into a business is making sure that we can get the company back into a good standing so that the business owner can think with a clear mind and we can help make strategic decisions from the marketing end to grow them.
Steve: Great. That’s a really terrific overview. Will, what do you find in working with your clients and your experience is the biggest challenge that companies face in trying to be successful in e-commerce and digital marketing? What are the biggest challenges they face in the first place?
Will: Yeah, not to get too philosophical with you, a lot of companies are trying to acquire customers. They think marketing and think of acquiring customers. In the general sense, that makes sense but people always forget that the majority of your revenue is coming from past customers, past people you have relationships with. And so they’re always like, “Hey, we should spend money here, we should do this, we should do this billboard, this magazine ad.” I think one of the biggest problems is knowing where to put your money is the biggest problem. But even before we get there, how are you not optimizing the relationship with your past customers, right? Like 80% of your revenues is going to come from your current customer list. 20% is going to come from your new customers so why are you spending 80% of your revenue on trying to acquire new customers?
Let’s focus on the relationships that are already built because your repeat customer rate could be a lot higher. You don’t know the lifetime value of your customer so let’s optimize that. And then you’re in a completely better position to allocate more money to getting new clients. That’s, I think, is the biggest thing even top businesses forget. They just forget that, you know, it’s not all about getting new customers, it’s about building better relationships with past customers.
Steve: Well, that’s great. That’s a great response and it’s a good reminder for all of us, isn’t it?
Will: For sure, absolutely.
Steve: Okay, so what promotional methods are your customers or potential customers most likely to see or notice or be interested in?
Will: So I would say the biggest one that’s come up in the past couple years is, you know, the Facebook ad platform. You know, it depends on the type of business that you have. But a lot of our businesses are consumer based products and because they’re consumer products, we go where the consumers live and that’s Facebook. So Facebook is probably the number one advertising channel that we use for our clients. It’s not the only channel but it’s the one where we find it’s most effective. It’s because it’s a social channel, we’re able to create, you know, marketing assets, videos, images that really resonate with our target market. I would say that’s been huge in the past couple years to grow any business that we’ve worked on.
Steve: Now, I have a client that was just sharing the other day, Will, that they’ve had in the last six months to a year, decreased foot traffic into their physical locations. So what’s your advice for them? How can they attack a problem like that?
Will: So there’s a couple of things. You know, getting your local business found is big. Everybody has a phone in their hand 90% of the day and that’s what they’re using to find what they want. You know, a lot of old-school business owners are putting signs outside and that’s great if the foot traffic’s there, but because people are getting more concise with how they find what they want, you need to be in front of them where they’re searching. So, making sure that you show up, whether it’s Google listings or Yellow Pages or whatever it is that people are on is very important. So local listings is huge. Actually, that goes back to Yext. Yext has connected every single local listing out there. So any local business, I implore you to go sign up for Yext, it’ll help you dramatically.
But past that, let’s say you’re a restaurant are trying to get just, in general, more foot traffic by doing an advertising campaign, Facebook allows you to target within a specific radius. And so I always recommend, you know, maybe working with somebody that has some experience on that platform by creating some advertisement that is local in nature. If you’re a restaurant and you have, you know, Monday Night Football specials, plenty of that out there. Make it a five-mile radius and just let it run and maybe put a discount code. That way you can track some way, somehow, the people that are coming from the ad. There’s multiple ways to actually track that, but if you’re the business owner creating the ads, keep it simple and just try to get your name out there. Even though you might not see direct ROI from what you’re doing, you will start to see more foot traffic come in and you’ll know that’s a direct consequence of, you know, having your local listing out there may be running a Facebook ad.
Steve: Okay, good. Do you see any other channels, electronic marketing channels that are coming up behind Facebook that you found productive? A number two or three?
Will: Yeah, I would say AdWords has always been a player. AdWords they’re very intent based. So what I mean by that is, I want to buy red shoes. So you’re able to show up what somebody searching for, where Facebook is very intra-space. Like, we know that because they searched out one of our red shoes, they might be interested in shoes and we can show them different shoe advertisements.
From an up and coming standpoint, there’s not really a platform that’s as unique as Facebook so that’s why we always start there because we can get very segmented and really, really targeted. But it’s always good to know and understand pay per click. So pay per click in general, whether it’s AdWords, Bing, you know, any type of native search like Outbrain or Tubular. These are good things to know because once you kind of have success on Facebook, you can start going to those channels and have success as well. But in terms of new platforms, there’s nothing that we’ve seen as powerful as Facebook or easy to use, especially for local business owners that, you know, don’t have the chops to learn an entirely new system.
Steve: Right. Okay, that’s good. Good thoughts. Man Will knows his stuff here.
Will: I’m trying. I’m trying.
Steve: Okay well, I’m really putting Will to the test today. So I’ve got another good question for you I think, Will, and that is, can you share with our listeners today maybe a couple of experiences that have been really fun? Clients that you’ve worked with that have had a specific challenge and you’ve helped them out and where did they end up? What do you think?
Will: Yeah, I love answering these questions. I’ll try not to be too vague in my answers. You know, some clients we keep under wraps. So like we’ve got a bunch of clients in Los Angeles and they’re all doing, you know, kind of $20,000 in revenue a day from our efforts on advertising with ROI.
So I’ll give maybe two examples. One of them is a consumer product company that is like a wellness company let’s say. They’ve got some special type of products that when they first came to us, they were only doing about $500 a day in revenue. I love starting from my back against the wall. I don’t know why I love starting like this. I’m what you call a learner, so I like learning throughout the process because it makes you better in the trenches. So when it was brought to us, I saw potential right away but they had been at it for five years and they haven’t been able to get past that mark.
The second we got it in our hands, we saw some major issues that we could fix. They didn’t have a traffic problem, they had a conversion problem. So they were getting 1000 people to their site a day, but they just weren’t able to get them to become buyers. So we first made their website mobile responsive, because 80% of the people that are buying on mobile and the second we did that, they went from $500 to $1300, $1500 a day. And that was amazing because that allowed them to start an advertising budget for us to kind of go play with.
But past the mobile responsive, we started implementing a lot of things in the customer journey that we were able to get people to where they wanted to go. You know, a lot of people were coming to the pages that there was no call to action or there was no button that took them to the product page. So if there’s no button taking you to the product page, how are you going to get to the product? You’re going to have a high bounce rate. So that’s something we put in place. We were able to get them from $1500 to $2000.
And then we started playing around on Facebook and testing different audience types and really just trying to figure out who the buyers of these products. After about a month of testing we were able to really find, you know, the right buyers and we started some campaigns. So that went from $2000 to $3000. And then we looked at, you know, this is great for achieving ROI but how do we get the company to grow? Even though we were making good profit on the sales of the product, the net profit, I wouldn’t say it’s enough for the company to grow the way a bootstrap company would so what do we need to change? Well, we need to make our average order value bigger. It was around $40 and we needed to make it larger because that extra $20 or $30 that we could get, would actually increase the bottom line significantly and add to, you know, being able to hire another employee or do something.
So we take a very chess-like, systematic approach, to how we scale companies. You know, from point A to point…I’ll never say we’re at point Z but we point A to point D right now. You know, they’ve gone from $500 a day to averaging about $10,000 in revenue per day just online and we manage the entire process for them. We’ve done everything from building websites to tweaking things to optimizing user experience to increase the average order value to optimizing their email campaigns.
That’s exciting for me. I think that I’m, unfortunately, not a product guy as much as I’d like to be because I’d be running my own product based-businesses, which I’m sure we’ll do soon, that’s a goal. But this to me is practice and it’s an experience for my team to become the best. That’s what we want to do. We want to become the best at what we do and we’re on our way. So every little win we have like that, it allows us to kind of hone in everything we’ve learned versus a bigger agency that just gets clients. We’ve seen a lot of agencies that have worked with some of our clients that we end up getting that are used to working with huge companies that have venture capital. And because they come to them with these big budgets, they’re not able to learn the really, really important nuances of why you should stop a campaign or why you need to tweak something. And those pennies that you save add up over time. And you end up spending an extra $100,000 that year in marketing which you didn’t need to do. And so that that’s an example of one company where we’ve taken them from almost nothing to, I wouldn’t say wildly successful, but pretty well off to where they’re able to build their own business. And so that’s very, very exciting to us.
Steve: Well, I love this perspective that you’ve been sharing, Will. One of the things that Will mentioned is this desire, this effort to become your best. I love this mindset, it’s also a skill set and as our listeners know, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders is built on 40 years of research of what we have observed, what sets apart high performing individuals from everybody else. What we discovered is that even though people were perfect, there were 12 things they did in common and that’s what we have in Becoming Your Best.
One of those 12 things is apply the power of knowledge. Will is doing, by the way, almost all of these 12 that I can see but he is definitely all over it in gaining knowledge and then applying the knowledge. This is what creates such significant value as he is focused and able to deliver this to his customers. So that’s fantastic. I love the story, Will.
Will: Oh, I definitely appreciate it. Like you said, it wasn’t that I woke up one day and wanted to start an agency and be a marketer, but because I have the focus and I’m passionate about it, the learning is the fun part for us and because we made it fun, it has allowed us to scale and grow. You know, just a side note to that. A lot of people that we’ve worked with and other agencies that we’ve been handed off to, a lot of people that have been on their staff or we’ve seen around our ecosystem, even if it’s for less of a fee, they’re so excited when they work with us because it gets them excited to learn. I think that having that as a company, having that mindset like you’re always ready to learn, it’s going to attract some of the best people.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great thought. I’m always amazed how fast time goes and our time’s up. Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today.
Will: I guess the only tip I would say, you know, a lot of people are out there struggling, trying to figure out how to get their business online or how to grow online. What I tell everybody is, if you’re going to hire somebody for this, because it does take a lot to learn yourself, you’re going to hire somebody for this, make sure it’s a personal referral or personal reference. I’ve seen too many people get, I guess, shammed or whatever it might be called by just going and finding somebody online. Find somebody through your personal network that you believe is good, that can help you get online. If you have any questions or need any help or whatever, just shoot us an email. I’m very happy to help people and give back to the community.
Steve: Yeah, that’s a great thought. And Will, what are some things they ought to be looking for because we all have seen quite a few “e-marketing” organizations that are willing to help, but some, like in any area of business or life, are much better than others? So are there any kind of lookouts or things that we ought to have our heads up for?
Will: Yeah, so this is a pretty straightforward one but almost no one applies it. References, right? So like get references and then call them. I’ve done it myself. I get the references and because somebody gave them to me, I’m like, “Okay, that’s good.” But no one actually picked up the phone to call. So references and seeing a case study or two and actually calling the references. Actually talking to somebody and seeing, does the business align with mine in the sense that they could also be successful? That’s huge. Most people get references and don’t call them. Call them references, feel them out. Don’t be fast to make a decision. My best decisions have come from being patient and so things will come if you think it through.
Steve: That’s terrific advice. So how can people find out about you and what you’re doing?
Will: Go to www.unstoppable.co. You can go on Facebook and look up Will Deane. Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll be able to talk to us, talk to anybody on our team and we’re definitely happy to help.
Steve: Oh, great. Well, this has been fun today. Great ideas, stimulating thoughts for every single one of us as we’re all working on being the best we can be. So thank you, Will for being part of this show today. You’ve done a great job.
Will: Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Steve. Yeah, just let me know anytime, I’d love to work with you and anybody that’s listening.
Steve: Yeah, perfect. Well, thank you. And we wish all of our listeners today the very best as you are making a difference in the world and this is for us who are trying to promote services and businesses, solutions that can make life better and help people be more successful. This is a great way to do it. So we’re signing off and never forget, you too can make a difference every single day of your life. I’m Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day.