Today’s episode is a special one because it wasn’t even on my radar as a potential topic for the podcast. But while I was updating the Lounge sign-up page to better reflect the content in the program I started going through the end-of-year survey I did to get feedback from the members.
Like we talked about on episode 260. There is A LOT of gold in your customer's feedback and I was using it to not only see the language they use to talk about the program and their struggles as eCommerce business owners but also to see what wins they had, the most valuable parts of the membership, etc.
As I was reading through them, there were all these little golden nuggets, lessons, and inspirational stories that I thought oh shit, I need to share these! Having run the membership for the last couple of years the number one thing I hear is how helpful it is to hear from other people’s experience, hear other people’s questions, etc. so I figured you would find a ton of value from some of the feedback I got.
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Email & Ads
Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of wins from ads and email, and in most cases, they really went hand in hand.
One student, she started her business in July of last year. She essentially had no sales until she joined the Lounge and started running ads in Q4. And she hit a 10k month. Are these results typical? No. In all fairness, she had a giftable product with some seasonal variants, and it was the holidays but it just goes to show that as long as you can get in front of the right people and have a product people want, you can find success. She also using bundles in her business which is
We had another student whose response said, my email list is growing, my flows are bringing in sales, and Facebook ads are bringing in new customers. Love that, she’s gotta a little sales machine working for her.
A third member, I was blown away by her response. She said, she nearly doubled her email list in the last 9 months with the help of a lead generation quiz and ads. Her ads drive people directly to that quiz. It’s a lifestyle-type quiz based on her industry. It’s positioned really well too cause they’re only going to take the quiz if they’re interested in the product she sells and their results give her insight into where they’re at in their journey so she knows how to tailor content to them.
Another big win she had, which is sort of a byproduct of this list growth which is why I’m including it here, is she has a really cool product that she makes by hand – most of her items she buys and resells, so this is special. And because of that she only releases them during the holiday season. So she’s got a few things going for it. It’s unique, it’s seasonal and there was a limited qty available. It’s basically her pumpkin spice latte.
This year she raised her price, she was afraid to do this because she was already kinda at the top of the market. But she did it anyway. Even with the higher price, she ended up selling double the number of units she sold the year before. She also submitted some numbers, a 137% revenue increase and a 148% profit increase. Based on those, I think she’s talking about her business as a whole vs. just that product otherwise the math would be off. But either way, whether it was just on one product or the whole business those numbers are FIRE.
This is a great testament that you DO NOT have to compete on price. Put the right product in front of the right people and people will pay.
Some of the other common wins from email were getting back to being consistent, upping the frequency of sending, and using VIP waitlists for new and seasonal collections.
The pre-launch and waitlist is one of my favorite ways to grow your list and generate sales. I lay out the entire step-by-step process in an exclusive Lounge course called Launch Badassery, but you can get the high-level overview of that on episode 235.
The other theme that came through in the results was focus.
One of our members has a clothing boutique and she used to sell everything from graphic tees and jeans to shoes and handbags. The category that was driving the majority of her sales though was her graphic tees and they were the easiest to manage from an inventory perspective because she prints to order in house. So all she has to do is stock the blanks. When it came to the rest of her products she had to stock inventory in them, deal with sizes, clearing out seasonal items, etc. And it was proving to be a pain in the you know what.
I had been subtly hinting to her for a while she should focus more heavily on the graphic tees, and at some point last year she messaged me to say, I got the message – I’m going all in on the tees.
She quoted this as a win in her survey response, but I also spoke to her the other day and asked how it was going since she made the switch. Her answer, really good! My business is up and I feel like the content is so much easier with it being focused. I'm also getting a ton of custom requests from other businesses which is a nice supplement!
Another way focus showed up was in using a rinse-and-repeat holiday campaign that did just as well as the previous year. This particular student has a lot going on her business at the moment, she’s rebuilding her website onto a standard Shopify theme from a custom one so she can manage it more easily herself and she’s migrating to an email platform that is more in line with her business structure. When it came time to run her marketing campaign she just repurposed everything she had done the year before.
I absolutely love this. That’s the beauty of having a solid marketing system. You get to just rinse, repeat, and refine it over time but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel constantly. Your marketing can truly age like a fine wine and get better over time. My pre-launch process is a great example of a rinse-and-repeat marketing strategy you can use in your business.
Focus also showed up in what they learned this year. I drill in pretty heavily about having only 1-3 things you’re going to try and accomplish each quarter, depending on how big those goals are. That’s always a huge AHA moment for people.
While I’m all about dreaming big and encourage it – but you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish if you want to build momentum… Otherwise, you just end up in a spiral about all the things you didn’t do and it totally throws you off track!
And then the last lesson about focus was letting go of low-margin products that just weren’t serving the business anymore. The response read: Saying no to lower-margin sales gives us more space for orders at a higher margin, and letting go of those products isn't going to kill our business. The bitterness that I was feeling from working for what felt like pennies has been replaced with an excitement to serve families who appreciate and value our work.
Those higher margin products also happen to be their best seller and what she’s focused on with the ads she started running. Overall, her ads are now at a 3x ROAS, and they were up 164% in revenue on Shopify. She credits ads & email for her success.
The next big theme was investments and they showed up in a few different ways.
First, let’s go back to that student who is migrating from a custom theme to a Shopify one. She struggled with the idea of making the switch because she had already spent so much time and money on it. In the end though, she knew that making this move was going to be better in the long run and ultimately save her a bunch of cash because she wouldn’t have to rely so much on custom development.
This is honestly an issue I see happen all the time. 99% of eCommerce businesses do not need a fully custom-built theme. If any branding or site design company is pushing you toward a custom theme, please push back. It’s really not worth the long-term hassle.
There was another student who had a negative experience with her investments in 2023, unfortunately with Facebook Ads. She really did give it a go but they just didn’t work for her. While she able to grow her list, at the end of the day those people didn’t convert well. She used the same strategy as everyone else who saw great success… so what gives? There’s no way to know for sure, but my gut tells me it was more related to her product. What she was promoting was very specific, very seasonal, and not consumable.
One of her other products is starting to emerge as a best seller and I definitely see some more opportunity with that one as it is somewhat consumable and she’ll be able to go very deep into different variations of that product and create marketing campaigns around them all year long.
In both of these cases though, there was a big hesitation to let go based on the time, energy and effort they had already spent. The first on the custom theme and the second on the list she had gained when she was trying ads.
I mean, she had all these people who had initially raised their hand and said yes, I want this product… but how many attempts should she make to try and sell to them?
When it comes to your email list, yes you do have continue to show up in people’s inboxes and stay top of mind… the one thing you can never fix for a customer is timing. But at some point, you might just have to turn around and let those people go. Whether you paid for those leads or not. If they stop engaging with your emails and never buy anything from you – they’re a dud. It happens.
Anytime you make a bad investment or things just don’t pan out the way you hope… that’s okay. It’s a part of the process. You just learn the lesson and you keep moving forward.
On a more positive note, there were two responses related to investments that really spoke volumes about what it’s like as an entrepreneur trying to learn, grow, and invest in education.
The first one reads:
Because of my membership to The Lounge, I wasn't easily distracted this year with “shiny object syndrome” for every other educational program out there. I cut my education expenses by 75% compared to 2022. I don't regret the programs I spent money on last year, but my ROI has been exponentially better from my Lounge membership than those other programs.
The second one reads:
You give sooo much value, and I'm incredibly grateful to be here. We've been in a few ‘masterminds' and sometimes I'm shocked at how much more helpful and forthcoming you are. You prep, help plan, and are just generally so supportive. You really are amazing.
Yes, these are both essentially positive reviews about the Lounge, but that’s truly not why I’m sharing them with you.
One, I want you to know that if you’ve been struggling to find the RIGHT place, the RIGHT program, or you’ve invested in things that didn’t quite get you the outcome you were looking for… you are not alone.
I’ve made some not-so-great investments in programs and mentors before and honestly, it just made me feel dumb. Like damn, I should have known better. But let this serve as a reminder that it happens to the best of us.
Two, that different businesses at different points in their journey need different program structures.
I’ve seen some businesses invest in these big masterminds when they’re still lacking in some foundational things in their business, or even if they’re in debt. Or maybe they’re investing in a bunch of different programs to learn a bunch of different things, when they’d probably be better served by getting really good at a handful of proven strategies.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for those programs, there certainly is. But it’s important to recognize what is going to make the most sense for you at this moment in time. That of course is easier said than done; sometimes you won’t know until you get inside… but do your best to be real with yourself about what is truly going to help you in this moment and what might be a distraction.
I also want to remind you that rarely is there some secret silver bullet that is going to grow your business overnight so try not to let FOMO, comparison, and shiny object syndrome get the best of you, okay? I am also a work in progress on this. My education and development category is a pretty big percentage of my overall spend.
Other Wins & Lessons
Lastly, before we go I wanted to run through a few one-liner lessons that came through the survey and are super impactful.
- You don’t need to rely on organic social
- When overall revenue is down, focus on what is working
- sometimes things that have worked don't work anymore and you need to change,
- you should always listen to your gut
- Nothing works all the time / Keep moving forward / Keep it simple
- Don't get too down when things don't work out the way you expected, instead analyze what did and didn't work… use data to try and figure out the next best thing to do
- Growth belongs to the person who has learned to test and iterate often. There's probably a less complicated and equally impactful path – take it. (both of these need to be on a t-shirt or something)
- Writing out my sales goals and posting in front of me was more helpful than I thought possible.
And last, but certainly not least…
- I can't do everything on my own, and it's okay to ask for help. – I didn't know what I didn't know for a long time, and now I have to work that much smarter to correct the mistakes I made along the way, but I'm so glad I'm learning and growing and adapting
And if you take nothing else away from today’s episode… let it be that.