DTC POD #322 - 8 Simple Frameworks to Grow a Massively Profitable Consumer Brand with Sabir Semerkant
What is up DTC pod? Today we are joined by Sabir Semerkant, who is an OG as he describes himself in the space. He was originally a co founder with Gary Vee over at Vayner Commerce or what's it called? Vaynermedia. He has been an advisor to the Sharks on Shark Tank. He's been in the e commerce and business building space for ages now. And not only that, he's got his own kind of framework that he's developed to help businesses scale.
So Sabira, we're really excited to have you on the show today because I think there's going to be a lot that founders and operators can learn from you as they're building and scaling their business. So why don't you kick us off? Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, what got you into the space and what you've been up know over such a long career, specifically in kind of commerce and business building?
Sabir Semerkant 00:02:33 - 00:03:30
Well, first of all, Blaine, thank you very much for having me. Any platform that I can get where I can share my knowledge and share high quality advice, because there's a lack of good advice across whether it's TikTok or YouTube or any of the podcasting platforms. So any opportunity I get to kind of share my knowledge and kind of my journey and also advice and strategy during these podcasts, I always welcome it. And I really appreciate you having me as a guest on your show. So I have been in e commerce since the birth of e commerce. That's how long I'm a time oG. In fact, even when Jeff Bezos wanted to get into other verticals outside of selling just books, I don't know if you know that history of Amazon. Amazon was the world's largest bookstore.
Sabir Semerkant 00:03:30 - 00:04:11
I actually helped build out and launch the health and wellness section because I was running a huge brand at that time that I was scaling. And they wanted us to be one of those kind of blueprints for in. So that vertical, when you go on Amazon with the health and wellness, I've had a lot of hand in that. And later on, when Amazon started getting into Amazon fashion, I was involved with that, too, because I have plenty of experience running fashion brands. And many, I've touched many different product categories from when it comes to B to C, as well as I have some in the B two B space. But we can focus on B to C in today's talk because that's a gigantic topic by itself.
Absolutely. So why don't you tell us, how did you get started? What were some of those original touch points, specifically in the health and wellness space? What brands were you building and what were you scaling?
Sabir Semerkant 00:04:26 - 00:05:15
So if you are in the United States, if your listeners are in the United States, they know the brand really well. The brand is called the Vitamin Shop. So they're well known. They have over 900 to 1000 stores across the US, and some international, too, now. And the way I got involved was they had spun off Vitaminshop.com as a public company, just like many other bombs that happened during the era. Vitaminshop.com was one of those examples of bombing, too, and going bankrupt. So it went bankrupt. And then through his network, Jeff Horowitz, through his network, who's the founder of Vitamin Shop, got in touch with me to come in and see if I can revive it and put it back together again at that time.
Sabir Semerkant 00:05:15 - 00:05:49
Here's the interesting part of my journey. Sabir at that time was not a revenue growth hacker, had nothing to do with marketing or sales. I was a computer scientist, a hacker who had written millions and millions of lines of code. I was well known as the guy who you would hire if you wanted to launch your startup or your. It's not. When I say, I don't mean just e commerce. I've touched the street. So if you know Jim Kramer from CNBC Mad Money, he has a startup called thestreet.com.
Sabir Semerkant 00:05:49 - 00:06:20
I had my hand in that. I have had my hand in a lot of dot coms and a lot of startups and stuff like that. So once what I do is I get involved with vitamin shop, I start putting the tech infrastructure back together, because it was literally all the assets were sold. The assets were put in the warehouse, literally in a physical warehouse. When I say warehouse, I don't want tech people to think it's a data warehouse. It's not. It was a physical warehouse. I literally moved those servers into a hosting facility.
Sabir Semerkant 00:06:20 - 00:07:15
I even cut my finger right here. I'm showing you my part of my finger that has a fresh meat on it. And this has grown over time. So literally, I cut my finger moving it because I was the first one putting this thing together while I was interviewing people to join my team at that time, right? So I put it together. Everything is great now I'm paying attention to the tech side of things, writing things that I need to do to kind of upgrade the site and stuff like that. I meet with Jeff and say, hey, who do I talk to to help with marketing and driving traffic and stuff like that? Who's my partner in this? I was like, what are you talking? Well, it's said, you know, it sounded like I was scotty talking to Captain Kirk. I said, look, I'm an engineer. I'm not a know.
Sabir Semerkant 00:07:15 - 00:07:36
So he goes, I've. I've seen you do all these amazing things with the website and the infrastructure. Listen, I'm going to show you how to run a vitamin business. You need to teach yourself marketing, and I can kind of guide you if you need to. You're it. You're going to be running the tech and the marketing. This channel is yours. You're the head of this channel.
Sabir Semerkant 00:07:36 - 00:08:06
That's it, period. So I took it over before it went bankrupt. It was a $12 million company, right, that channel. But it was bankrupt and gone, literally. I literally revived it from just pure servers, but I took it from 12 million, and that was my first try. And, mind you, my only business training, if you want to call it that, was in college. I took accounting 101 and economics 101. The only reason I took it was because it was a core requirement.
Sabir Semerkant 00:08:06 - 00:08:42
Like, I could not graduate college if I didn't take it. That was my only reason for having that. And those two things are kind of useful, but it's a core requirement. How much attention do you pay to core requirements? You just want to pass them so that you can graduate with your degree. So what I would do is during the week, I would work on vitaminshop.com, and on the weekends, I would go to Barnes and Noble. They had a beautiful coffee shop, and they had plenty of books. I would literally pick up the next set of books that I needed to read. I would sit there, spend 10 hours every day, every weekend.
Sabir Semerkant 00:08:42 - 00:08:52
I would make my notes, learn from those books, and then bring it during the week. And what I learned on the weekend, I would actually implement it and test it out.
Sabir Semerkant 00:08:52 - 00:08:53
Sabir Semerkant 00:08:53 - 00:09:30
And what's great about it is when you are not part of a department or a category, you don't have any kind of preconceived notions, which is amazing, which is an amazing thing to be. Ignorance is an amazing thing to have, because there are no guardrails. Nobody told you what to do and what not to do, right? So you will do whatever makes sense, and you'll try it out, and then there's no ego attached to it. It's not like, oh, I've been doing this for so long, why is it not working? And it's my idea. I'm a genius. It should work.
Sabir Semerkant 00:09:30 - 00:09:31
Sabir Semerkant 00:09:31 - 00:10:03
I had no ego attached to it. It's like, to me, and especially with my engineering background, which had educated me pretty deeply, everything is mathematical. Everything you do is testing. Everything you do is you test. You set an experiment, you test it, you learn from it. And thank God I was in a field that was ecommerce, and everything was numbers. And I did have a heavy mathematical background, too, mathematics background, because of my computer science. So I would set the experiment, try it.
Sabir Semerkant 00:10:03 - 00:10:07
It worked. Scale it. If it failed, change the experiment, try it again.
Sabir Semerkant 00:10:07 - 00:10:08
Sabir Semerkant 00:10:08 - 00:10:47
Try a different thing. There are so many experiments. I could run experiments all the time. So for 25 years, what I've been doing, my goal is very simple. On a daily basis, Monday through Friday, I want to improve one of my KPIs by 1%. That's it. It's as simple as that. It's like 1% whether it's operations, whether it's add to cart, whether it's bounce rate, whether it's getting better targeting of audiences, whether I want to get 1% improvement in my open rates because I'm writing better subject lines or my ads are getting 1% better click through rate.
Sabir Semerkant 00:10:47 - 00:10:48
That's it.
Sabir Semerkant 00:10:48 - 00:11:41
I don't ever set goals like, oh, I want to improve things by, oh, you know what? I want to do this change and we should get 10% improvement. 10% is amazing if I get it, but my goal is just 1%. So imagine there are 220 working days in a year in America, right? 220 days means any business I start. And if I follow that rule of 1% every single day, Monday through Friday, if I start on January 1 and I work only weekdays, I don't even slave away on the weekends. I just improved that business by 22 X. Let's say I'm a human being, I'm going to have some rough days, I'm going to get sick, I want to take vacation, and I want to do other things, right. I'm having a bad day or a bad week or whatever. That 22 x could drop down to ten X.
Sabir Semerkant 00:11:42 - 00:11:48
Let's make it that 60% of my time I'm wrong and 40% I'm going to be right.
Sabir Semerkant 00:11:48 - 00:11:48
Sabir Semerkant 00:11:48 - 00:12:33
You still can grow the business by ten X. And I've followed that principle throughout my life. And with that, what I have done over the years is that that assumption is not just about marketing. That applies to operations. It applies to your team, it applies to your logistics, it applies to your customers, it applies to all of these things. And I identified these eight dimensions, literally eight dimensions of a business that if you tackle it one dimension at a time and you set these principles into action, you get ridiculous growth. And my clients right now, I have a program called Rapid two X that utilizes this 8D method that I. 8D is for eight dimensions.
Sabir Semerkant 00:12:33 - 00:13:19
This 8D method that I have crafted and perfected over the past 25 years. Now, when my clients get in there, shopify owners, Amazon sellers, woocommerce, the platform really doesn't matter to me, right? Because it's the principles of growth that are implemented at the foundation level. So these are not tactics that you implement because you saw it on TikTok and some guru told you, oh, if you do this little tweak, Facebook is going to give you so much more click through rate and stuff. Yeah, it's great. Now, as much as you saw that TikTok thing or YouTube thing, so did millions of other people. And what happens to that tactic next week? It stops working, right?
Sabir Semerkant 00:13:21 - 00:13:46
That's not how you grow your business. You want to grow your business foundationally so that the things that you're doing, those 1% improvements, are foundational. So six months from now, that's not going to matter, right. That growth is embedded, is part of your foundation, and then you keep on building on top of that, moving forward. So there are eight dimensions and we can tackle them.
Yeah, I want to tackle them. And I think something else that you mentioned that's super important. It's like, a, you want to constantly be improving your business, but B, you don't want to be optimizing for quick things that are in today and out tomorrow. The question that I have, because once you start building a business, there are so many different places you can go to optimize. So what sounds simple, you might get some good optimization one day. I think probably the most way operators think about it is like, tackle a problem, improve it, maybe the 10%, and not touch it for three months, as opposed to really consistent growth on some things. I know I'm probably guilty of it in some of my businesses where we'll really optimize things, and you're like, okay, I put that fire out, and then you don't even think about it for a long time until it catches up and bites you again. So when you're thinking about these areas to optimize, how do you identify what to focus on and how to know if it's something that's something foundational versus something that's more transient.
Sabir Semerkant 00:14:52 - 00:15:03
So to me, I compare this to the analogy would be like a sick body, right? If it's a sick body, a business can be sick in many different ways.
Sabir Semerkant 00:15:03 - 00:15:04
Sabir Semerkant 00:15:05 - 00:15:48
I'll give you an example. For example, if you tweak one thing, right, let's say there are different roles on your team, whether it's yours, whether you're doing it, or you hired somebody to run marketing for you, for instance, right? That marketing person is phenomenal, right? They're delivering their KPIs, the orders, everything looks great. But what if your logistics is sick, right? When I say sick, I don't mean one of those cool kit sick things. I mean literally sick. It's ill, right. That there's something wrong. And that could be your logistics, right? And logistics could mean supply chain. That the thing that you need to create, they cannot create it fast.
Sabir Semerkant 00:15:48 - 00:16:19
Enough. Or when they sped up that thing because you have sped up your business so much, what happens? Great, the marketing guy goes like, I did my job, right? No, but it's, the whole company needs to do their job, not just you. The whole brand needs to succeed, right? Because it's possible. Production cannot keep up with that growth. So you have to be smart about when you are thinking about growth. It's not just a marketing function. You have to think about supply chain, you have to think about manufacturing. You have to think about customer service.
Sabir Semerkant 00:16:20 - 00:17:13
Maybe you have your mom or your girlfriend or brother handling customer service for you because you're at a certain stage and it's manageable. But let's say you were super lucky and you grew the business, right? What happens to that customer service person? It scales, right? Even those problems scale. And especially now, let's touch the other side of that. Logistics, right? Order fulfillment, right? You could handle 20 orders per day and that was your capacity. Even the partner that you hired, it was a small warehouse with limited number of resources because of pricing or because of what you had in your pocket. That's what you could afford at that time, right? And you got that three Pl. Or you have a bunch of your friends doing this in your garage and helping you. But there's only so many of them that you could handle easily handle like 20 of them.
Sabir Semerkant 00:17:13 - 00:17:58
20 orders per day. Let's say it went to 40 orders per day. That's why every business has all of these things. Like one part of it could be very good. Even though it's really good and it's really working really well, it's going to start showing its sign of sickness in other categories, other departments that you have and other functions that you have. So that's why you want to make sure that whenever you're looking at growth, you have to look at all of those things. So you ask me, where do you pay attention when I'm going through that initial. It's a twelve week program in the first two weeks.
Sabir Semerkant 00:17:58 - 00:18:20
That's what's happening in the first two weeks. We quickly identify what the issues are, right. There are two ways to do it. Either you pre invest and you say, okay, I'm going to scale up these things so that it gets better. But you might be overinvesting because you may not get the demand that you thought you're going to get, right? Then you lose money. That's not a good idea either.
Sabir Semerkant 00:18:20 - 00:18:21
Sabir Semerkant 00:18:21 - 00:19:05
Or you could throw yourself into the deep water and scale up your spend or scale up your email marketing or whatever, and try to see if you can get what sort of problems rise up in either case. Either way you do, you have to measure. Measurement is the biggest thing. That's the how part of it. Everything we do, we have to measure. When I say measure, I don't mean just Google Analytics, right? Whenever I say measurement, everybody thinks that it's GA three, GA four, right? They put UTM tags on things and they want to measure things. Or Facebook is giving you data or whatever. I don't mean that, I mean measuring actually the entire business, every aspect of it, right.
Sabir Semerkant 00:19:05 - 00:19:44
To identify what parts of it has that sickness and it doesn't have the capacity or capability, and let's work on that to make it better. And when I say working on these things, I don't mean to work on it on a three month plan. I mean work on it in the next few days to get things going in 2024, things you want to do with your business could be done at a speed of light. You can do it very fast, right. But you have to understand what things you are good at, that you should handle and keep it in house and what things are great for you to just outsource it and then just manage that. Outsourced help.
Definitely. My next question was going to be, and I want to get into the ads, but my next question is, what's the most common mistakes that you see? Because like you're saying you come in, you work with a whole bunch of different founders, and you're spending the first two weeks diagnosing them. What's the most common thing that people are just getting wrong out of the gates? That should be obvious. And I'm sure you pointed out to them and they're probably like, oh, I knew that. Or I knew I should be doing that. But what do you see?
Sabir Semerkant 00:20:17 - 00:20:55
The number one. And it's thanks to a lot of YouTubers and TikTokers and people who sell courses, the gurus, right. The number one problem arises from. And what is the problem? The problem is that set up your shopify site or Amazon listing and take your money and give it to Facebook. So I call it the Facebook Instagram slot machine. They become so addicted to buying ads and buying transactions. I literally mean that.
Sabir Semerkant 00:20:55 - 00:20:56
Sabir Semerkant 00:20:56 - 00:20:59
They're buying transactions. They're not building a business.
Sabir Semerkant 00:21:00 - 00:21:00
Sabir Semerkant 00:21:02 - 00:21:39
Initially, if you want to just get that adoption cycle and stuff, you can make that excuse. But once you become addicted to it, it's no longer that piloting program or the launching program that you thought you were doing. Now you're so dependent on it that this has become the norm for you. And when I come across these brands, they have been in it for a year, two years, three years. When I look at the channels, I say, so how do you drive sales? The number one answer, we run Facebook ads. Number two answer is Google Ads.
Sabir Semerkant 00:21:39 - 00:21:40
Sabir Semerkant 00:21:40 - 00:21:56
And, okay, how's that doing for you? Well, we keep on hiring and firing agencies. We found freelancers on fiver, LinkedIn, so on and so forth. Nobody has cracked a code between two to three x roas.
Sabir Semerkant 00:21:56 - 00:21:57
Sabir Semerkant 00:21:57 - 00:22:29
That's another favorite acronym that most people know. Return on advertising spend. But, okay, what else are you doing? Oh, no, that's it. That's all we do. All right, what about the traffic that comes to your site? Do you collect their emails or do SMS marketing or anything? No, not much. So the organic channels, because of this misinformation and miseducation by all of these kind of courses and gurus and stuff like that. And because it is a very trendy thing to talk about.
Sabir Semerkant 00:22:29 - 00:22:30
Sabir Semerkant 00:22:30 - 00:22:36
And people, when they invest in that Facebook ad, it becomes very addicting.
Sabir Semerkant 00:22:36 - 00:22:37
Sabir Semerkant 00:22:37 - 00:22:52
And that's why when Apple announced the iOS 14 update, what happened to all those businesses? They started collapsing. You heard more complaints from them? I don't know. Facebook is not working. Oh, my God, my business is tanking.
Sabir Semerkant 00:22:52 - 00:22:52
Sabir Semerkant 00:22:52 - 00:23:27
Because you did not invest in building your brand. You did not build all of these other channels. You became so addicted to this one channel because you would put out a certain amount of ad dollars and you buy your traffic and you buy your orders and transactions, right? And you're making, I don't know, 30% or something, and you go like, okay, that's the game. Let's keep on doing it. And then Apple comes in, ruins the party, right? And then a lot of businesses, a lot of Shopify businesses collapsed because of it.
Sabir Semerkant 00:23:27 - 00:23:28
Sabir Semerkant 00:23:28 - 00:23:45
They were doing really well. I know some businesses that were doing three to $5 million, and then once that happened, that three to 5 million dropped down to like five hundred K. Nine hundred K. And they were learning their lesson about not being overly dependent on a channel.
Sabir Semerkant 00:23:45 - 00:23:45
Sabir Semerkant 00:23:46 - 00:24:42
And that's a number one mistake that I see most businesses do, right? Not investing and not building their brand, not building their content, not building their story, not building. Why should they buy from you, right? I could be in a market that 1000 other sellers are selling the same product. I can still win. Because even if it's a commodity product, if you are treating it differently from a perspective of, like, customer service or you're doing it from a storytelling standpoint, because you have that emotional connection that you can show, that the other thousand sellers cannot show. People will gravitate towards you even though you're asking them to pay you more. You're not the cheapest price. So that's the number one problem. The number two problem is couponing people to debt and promotions.
Sabir Semerkant 00:24:42 - 00:24:43
Sabir Semerkant 00:24:43 - 00:25:11
So, okay, the Facebook agency or the Facebook guy that works for you, they say, oh, you know what? We're running these ads for acquisition. Could you give me a 50% off discount code? This is one of the biggest reasons, one of the biggest reasons that if you read the US retail news during the holidays, like at the tail end of it, near Christmas to New Year's timeframe, you go like, oh, all these retailers had tremendous growth.
Sabir Semerkant 00:25:11 - 00:25:12
Sabir Semerkant 00:25:12 - 00:25:16
Everybody's clapping because Black Friday was, in fact, black for them.
Sabir Semerkant 00:25:16 - 00:25:17
Sabir Semerkant 00:25:17 - 00:25:41
What happens in January? Every single year, the bankruptcies skyrocket because throughout the year, they didn't do what they were supposed to do. Then they heavily discounted. They were not set up for that growth. And then on the tail end of it, yeah, all those orders came in and now the refunds need to go out and the chargebacks need to go out and the returns need to go up.
Sabir Semerkant 00:25:41 - 00:25:41
Sabir Semerkant 00:25:41 - 00:25:48
And then January comes, you have nothing to show for it. There's nothing left. You might as well go for bankruptcy.
100%. No, those are great. I think super important to point out over reliance on Facebook. That's something we hear all the time, as well as over indexing on discounting. I think a lot of people, especially when it comes to D, to C, a lot of people don't think about building the brand or they think, that's something that I will do. But I love that in terms of a framework, it's like if you're building a brand that you want to endure, start out from the foundation and start building a brand and not just another Facebook product. So that leads me to my next question, which is going to be about your sort of framework.
Sabir Semerkant 00:26:26 - 00:26:26
You've had this experience, you've tested, you've run all the different experiments to kind of get 1% better. You see, you identify kind of the problems. But walk me through your 8D sort of method. Like, what are some of the core foundational principles that business operators should be applying to how they think about and run their business?
Sabir Semerkant 00:26:50 - 00:26:50
Sabir Semerkant 00:26:50 - 00:26:59
So let's go through the eight dimensions. It's one dimension at a time, because each one of them is kind of unique, but they're all connected to each other.
Sabir Semerkant 00:26:59 - 00:26:59
Let's do it.
Sabir Semerkant 00:27:00 - 00:27:44
The first one is marketing, right? And when I say marketing, the big mistake that people misunderstand marketing is they think that marketing means sales or promotion, right? So when they take that dimension into account, if you look at their socials, Gary Vee is blue in the face and he says, content, content. Jab, jab, jab. Right hook. Give them content. He's absolutely right. People misunderstand that, especially e commerce companies. Most of these socials, oh, our engagement is not so great, right? And then you look at their socials, there's no reason why it should be great, right? Because what they're posting is. Oh, it's our promotion.
Sabir Semerkant 00:27:44 - 00:28:10
Is this promotion? Is that promotion. So you literally took a medium like email marketing and you turned it into social media. Social media is like, imagine you walk into a party and you walk into that party, instead of socializing with people, you start screaming at the top of your lungs about whatever widget you sell. You want people to buy it from you and you're attending a wedding.
Sabir Semerkant 00:28:12 - 00:28:12
Sabir Semerkant 00:28:12 - 00:29:21
Doesn'T make sense, right? It's absolutely the wrong thing to do. But building that content. And let's say if you sell, I have a cat as a pet, right? So using that example, if you love that cat, you know that they want to drink water and stuff, and it shouldn't be in a dish. You can buy a small fountain. It doesn't cost much, right? Now imagine there are thousands of sellers behind this product, right? You can go on aliexpress and get it and then start selling it. Or you could even drop ship it, right? But someone like me, I would actually utilize my cat and tell my story about my cat and how I want to do everything right by this cat, right? And then, just like my kid, I love this cat. So if I tell that story, and that's my foundation for my marketing and that content is my foundation for my marketing. Now everyone who loves their cat is going to gravitate towards me, right? It has nothing to do with the fountain, the water fountain that I want to sell them.
Sabir Semerkant 00:29:21 - 00:30:05
It has everything to do with me as the founder of this water fountain company or other cat related products and accessories and toys and food and stuff like that. But the foundation I've built is, oh, me. Sabir, he owns a cat. He loves his cat. Everything he does, does it for the cat, does amazing things for the cat, right? And then even people who follow me know my cat's name. They have seen her sleeping, they have seen her playing with toys. They have seen all these kinds of things. When you build that kind of a relationship, you distinguish yourself from thousand other sellers because most other sellers, what would they do? Most of them are lazy.
Sabir Semerkant 00:30:05 - 00:30:29
They will just take the photos and videos that aliexpress gave them or any dropshipper gave them. They will load it up. In fact, they don't even bother making any changes to the copy. They just copy and paste it. Then I'm seeing the same messaging. Then in that case, I'm going to just go with the lowest price because it's the same product, it doesn't matter, right? The same water fountain. I can take it. I can double the price.
Sabir Semerkant 00:30:29 - 00:31:02
I can double the price because I have that emotional connection with people. I've built that relationship with them through my content, through me, through my cat, everything that I do, they are following my journey and everything. So when I put that product up and I say, oh, you know, know, it has my signature approval. And Heather, my cat, loves it too, right? Check this out. Check this video out. Heather is drinking from it. She loves it. And I'm getting amusement from her enjoying this water fountain, right? You see there's a smile on your face right? Now.
Sabir Semerkant 00:31:02 - 00:32:01
You're imagining this in your head, right? Imagine if that was the content that was on social, that was on your ad, that was on your website, that was on every platform, YouTube and so on and so forth. Now you have built proper level of marketing into that in 2024, consumers want to create that relationship because everything, all these brands have become faceless. So they want to put a face to it. It could be your face, it could be your cat's face, right? They want to put that face to it. And if you build that, if that water fountain sells for $30, you could ask for $50 and people will be paying you $50 because they know you have the proof, the social proof that this works. And your customers will also come back and send you their videos of their cats enjoying it and their reaction to it so that that becomes even more content for your brand.
Sabir Semerkant 00:32:02 - 00:32:02
And I think that's so important because a lot of, I mean, as products become more commoditized, they're easy to spin up. There's clones of whatever product you're looking for. You can find whatever variation either in the long tail of direct to consumer on Amazon, et cetera. So I think know, leading with content, leading with authenticity is a big one and it's something that you got to invest in from the get go. Okay, so we're number one down marketing. What's number two?
Sabir Semerkant 00:32:32 - 00:33:16
Number two performance optimization. At the end of the day, people come to your website, right? When I say your website, it could also be your Amazon listing, right? Even though that's not your website, right, but it's your Amazon listing. You have a lot of control over that experience. You do. Even on Amazon, you do on Shopify and woocommerce and Magento and stuff like that, you have a lot more control, right. That experience needs to be optimized. And the one KPI that I use to optimize that experience is called attention span. Blaine, what do you think the attention span of 2024 consumer is today?
Oh, man. Between TikTok and Instagram, I don't know, maybe like 5 seconds or less to catch your attention. You need like one or 2 seconds. And then you need to earn the next second and the next second, and the next second.
Sabir Semerkant 00:33:31 - 00:33:39
Absolutely. So, Blaine, the exact number from my experience and this has been published is 1.7 seconds.
Sabir Semerkant 00:33:39 - 00:33:40
Sabir Semerkant 00:33:40 - 00:34:51
So that means if your tech stack is slow and it takes 3 seconds, because you have loaded it up with so many, so much JavaScript and this images are heavy, you have not optimized your code and stuff like that, and it takes 3 seconds or 5 seconds. Some sites even take 15, 20 seconds. When you're looking at your bounce rate from your site and you look at ridiculous numbers like 70%, 80%. That's the reason behind it. The slowness is the reason, and you hit the nail on the head. TikTok Instagram reels and Amazon app has trained the eye, the human eye, to look and make a decision, split decision, which is, do I want to stick with this brand or do I want to move away? People argue about, oh, you know, what if they're on their mobile? Well, 4G, LTE and 5G, all of them give you those pages really fast. Don't point fingers at the cellular network and thinking that that's slow. You need to fix your house.
Sabir Semerkant 00:34:51 - 00:34:51
Sabir Semerkant 00:34:52 - 00:35:04
You need to optimize that experience, and in 1.7 seconds, you have to earn their engagement. And then do you know what happens for every second on top of it that you're not engaging?
No, that's what I want to hear.
Sabir Semerkant 00:35:06 - 00:35:14
Ecommerce for ecommerce, 30% loss. 30% loss in conversion rates for every.
Second that they're not, what?
Sabir Semerkant 00:35:16 - 00:35:17
Above 1.7 seconds.
Sabir Semerkant 00:35:18 - 00:35:18
Oh, wow.
So literally, you've got 1.7 seconds to grab that attention, and then beyond that, you're seeing 30% fall off every second.
Sabir Semerkant 00:35:25 - 00:36:18
Just keep on adding 30%, 30%. So imagine if you can shave down that interaction time down to as close to that 1.7 seconds as possible for the same traffic. Typically in that first two weeks of the twelve weeks that my clients that are in the rapid two X program, our goal is to optimize all of that experience. And the easiest thing you could do before you even touch code, right? Because not many business owners are HTML savvy or CSS or JavaScript is foreign language to them. I get it right. And then even when you hire a developer who claims to know that stuff, instead of helping you, they make it even worse. So that doesn't help. So the number one thing I'll give it so that people can act on this one thing very fast.
Sabir Semerkant 00:36:19 - 00:36:46
Take a look at every image on your site, every image including your logo. Most people miss their logo because visually they don't think their logo is an image. That's an image too, and tends to be very heavy too. Look at all of them. Pass it through a compressor. First of all, it should be png files. You should not use anything else because everything else is heavy. And you could use a free utility like tinypng, tinypng.com.
Sabir Semerkant 00:36:46 - 00:37:43
Load up your images, get them compressed, download it, re upload it to your site. That one action by itself is going to improve your load times on your site. That one thing. Because in most cases what happens is you work on it on canva or you work on Photoshop. Canva is very popular these days with business owners, or they're more fancy and they use Photoshop, right? When they get that image file, they just take it directly, bring it into their e commerce admin page, right? Shopify admin or whatever, they load it up and know they think they're done. If they take this one extra step of putting it into like a tiny PNG, that's a free software. I actually pay them because I find it very useful. I upload it, I download it and then I re upload it into the site and boom, you will see, because that images tend to be one of the heavy things.
Sabir Semerkant 00:37:44 - 00:38:42
And then once you accomplish that and the way you know that your site is slow, there's another free tool called you can put your URL for any page of your site and it will give you the breakdown of where the slowness is coming from. And you could measure it and it actually gives you, it uses Google page speed and insights and stuff like that. And it uses multiple things to give you a universal scorecard with actual breakdown. So once you see that, then you know, okay, now first I'm going to tackle the images that's done, then there's something called lazy loading. You could do that. And on top of it, I mean, these are all very technical terms, but now I can get a developer who knows how to optimize my JavaScript and other apps and stuff like that so that I can keep on cutting back. And every microsecond there that you can cut is going to be beneficial for your conversion rate and your bounce rate from your site.
Yeah, I think that's so important because a lot of times people, they get these amazing looking websites that don't get to the point, don't capture attention, and they're focused on all the wrong things. But I think just always having that in mind, that people are really scanning these sites and you're competing from attention from all these different places. The other thing I was going to add to that, that I think is so important is you want to audit your. If you're building your site on desktop, you have to understand there's so much traffic coming from mobile too. And you might be like, oh, my website looks perfect on desktop, but if everyone's going to mobile, that's where you need to be thinking. So I know that's okay.
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:24 - 00:39:27
You're absolutely right, Blaine. Let's put numbers behind it.
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:27 - 00:39:28
Right? Yeah.
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:28 - 00:39:37
For most ecommerce sites, depending on the category, anywhere from 50% to 70% of your ecommerce revenue comes from mobile.
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:37 - 00:39:45
So now, in 2024, desktop is 30% of your revenue in most categories.
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:45 - 00:39:45
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:46 - 00:39:59
So your web designer has a beautiful silica chip, Mac M one, M two chip, whatever. It looks amazing, right? And then they pull up your site and it looks beautiful.
Sabir Semerkant 00:39:59 - 00:40:00
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:00 - 00:40:02
Completely useless for ecommerce.
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:02 - 00:40:03
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:03 - 00:40:16
They need to have. And I'm not talking about emulators, I actually don't like the emulators. Go and buy $1,000 iPhone. That thousand dollars is going to give you a pretty good RoAs return on your phone spend.
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:16 - 00:40:17
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:18 - 00:40:20
Go get a Samsung.
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:20 - 00:40:20
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:20 - 00:40:41
That's for the Android. Those are very. Two very popular phones in the United States. If you're outside United States, Android based devices like Google Pixel and Samsung and Nokia are going to be very popular. But if most of your market is the US, then iPhone is going to be 90% or more of your mobile commerce number.
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:42 - 00:40:42
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:42 - 00:40:58
So don't use any emulators. Literally, go to your site on your phone. Would you buy from this site and do things come up quickly? Is the interaction there for you to do the things you need to do in order to get in, get out as quickly as possible.
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:58 - 00:40:58
Sabir Semerkant 00:40:59 - 00:41:02
That's how you measure it. That's how you need to optimize that experience.
Sabir Semerkant 00:41:02 - 00:41:03
Sabir Semerkant 00:41:04 - 00:41:48
If you're not optimizing it for that and your site looks beautiful because you're so, because I typically see this in the fashion industry, for example, the creative director and the brand owner are so visually driven, they always look at the desktop. Meaningless. Even in the fashion industry? Especially in the fashion industry, most of your shoppers are looking at your mobile commerce site. That's what they're looking at. And if that experience is not so great, if you're not utilizing things that are much more native to an iPhone, for example, in the US, then you're losing people. You're just losing people and you're not going to get. And there's a hidden revenue that's stuck in there because of that bad decision of just looking at your desktop site.
Definitely, right? Love it. Okay, so moving on, we've got, number one, marketing. Number two, performance optimization. What do you got for number three?
Sabir Semerkant 00:41:58 - 00:42:01
Number three. And now, okay, you got your marketing.
Sabir Semerkant 00:42:01 - 00:42:01
Sabir Semerkant 00:42:01 - 00:42:25
You got your performance. The site pages are coming up great, right. The third dimension that I always tackle has to do with product positioning and your brand, right. Because by the way, you might be itching for pricing and promotion, because every ecommerce site owner loves pricing and promotion. That dimension is much further down. Not right now.
Sabir Semerkant 00:42:25 - 00:42:25
Sabir Semerkant 00:42:25 - 00:43:28
The third thing you need to look at is your product positioning and brand building. The example I used of this fictional founder who loves his cat and does all these kind of things, that's the branding around it, right? And if you're a fashion company, where do you get your fabric from? Where do you make it? People. Consumers care about sustainability and making sure that it's coming from the right places. How do you give back? Do you help the poor with donating a part of my proceeds from the money I gave you in my shopping cart in my order. They care about those things, right. And authentically, if that's part of your brand culture and your ethos, you need to build that part of it. If you don't invest in this dimension, especially, you end up paying a big price, meaning that every time you have to keep on buying your transactions, right. If you think about one of the greatest examples is Zappos.
Sabir Semerkant 00:43:28 - 00:43:29
Sabir Semerkant 00:43:29 - 00:43:43
They literally took their marketing budget, put it into shipping, shipping, delivery, especially in the shoe industry, was one of the biggest, heels, pun intended, right. Of consumers.
Sabir Semerkant 00:43:43 - 00:43:44
Sabir Semerkant 00:43:44 - 00:44:55
Because I don't know if this shoe that I'm buying or sneakers I'm buying is going to be the right fit for my foot, right? So Tony Shea, rest in peace, said, oh, you know what? We're going to give you next day shipping or two day shipping. In fact, he moved the warehouse and fulfillment to be more central in United States. So across United States, most people got their orders next day or within two days, right? And he took that investment that he would have given to Google. Back then it was Google and later on Facebook, right? He took that money and said, okay, you know what, I'm going to over invest it in shipping, right? Because to me it's a number. I can put it either here and call it marketing or I can put it here and call it operational cost. It's the same number, it's the same pocket, I'm going to put it over here. And what happened with the consumers that branding became so important that it was pivotal to their success that he would send five shoes to you because that's what you asked for, you would try out. And do you know what was there? Typically in the shoe industry, the return rates are anywhere between 50% to 80%.
Sabir Semerkant 00:44:55 - 00:45:47
That's a gigantic return rate. That's a very hard business to get into. In his case, if people got five shoes, they may have returned one or two because everything was great. And even though he had said yes to five returns, all five returns, most people returned one or two shoes, maybe one, and they kept the rest of it, right, because everything was great and literally took the money from marketing, moved it over to customer service and shipping and handling and delivery times. And that was the thing. So building your brand around whatever those ethos are and you have to think about it and you have to be authentic. Some people think that, oh, you know what? We will create this facade on social media of who we are. Eventually that's going to break down.
Sabir Semerkant 00:45:47 - 00:46:05
So be authentic. Don't lie. People know when you're being fake, right? It will come out one way or another. You're going to piss off one of your employees, they will go out and they'll set up an anti brand channel to tell the world how fake you are.
Sabir Semerkant 00:46:05 - 00:46:05
Sabir Semerkant 00:46:05 - 00:46:26
So your brand needs to have a proper ethos. You need to build that awareness around it and you have to live it, right? And with that, continued with that, how does your products, the products that you make, what is the positioning behind that? And how does that lend itself to this brand ethos that you have created?
Sabir Semerkant 00:46:26 - 00:46:27
Sabir Semerkant 00:46:27 - 00:46:38
If you're saying you're organic, you're sustainable, you're gluten free. The fabric is the best fabric. And if you're a coffee brand, you give back to the farmers, whatever that is.
Sabir Semerkant 00:46:38 - 00:46:38
Sabir Semerkant 00:46:39 - 00:47:32
What does it mean for this product that I'm looking at? What's special about that product? Tell me that and continue that story and build that out. Build it into your product ethos, right. And from there, that's very foundational. So when you build that, that's where all of your content in this dimension, this is where you get plenty of content for your social media, for your email marketing, for your PR, for your YouTube channel. Even when you're telling business case studies and stuff like that on LinkedIn, you could utilize those kind of platforms to tell those stories. Or you're attending conferences and you're sharing your journey with other entrepreneurs and stuff. That's what you're sharing with them because you're living that life. So the third dimension has to do with product positioning and building your brand ethos.
We are really excited to announce that DTcpod is officially part of the HubSpot podcast network. The HubSpot podcast network is the audio destination for business professionals. And we're really excited about being part of the network because we're going to be able to keep growing the show, bringing you guys amazing guests, and obviously helping you guys learn from the best founders, marketers and builders of the most successful consumer brands. So anyway, keep listening to DTC pod and more shows like us on the HubSpot podcast network at PodcastNetwork. Yeah, I think that is also so important because so many people kind of know greenwash or whatever their brand, where they'll just stick on a logo, but they don't actually mean it. So really making sure it comes through the brand is super important. Okay, Sabir, what do we have next?
Sabir Semerkant 00:48:19 - 00:48:37
Next. Okay, so you took care of your marketing, you have content, you have a great product and you have great brand. The customer is your universe. You're not doing this just because you like doing those things. If there is no customer, you don't have a business.
Sabir Semerkant 00:48:37 - 00:48:37
Sabir Semerkant 00:48:40 - 00:48:42
Your customer is your business.
Sabir Semerkant 00:48:42 - 00:48:43
Sabir Semerkant 00:48:43 - 00:49:04
So the brand should not stroke your ego. It should be, how can we help this customer? So every decision you make, you should think about, am I giving enough information to them about the product? Am I telling them everything they need to know about how to take care of this fabric that I just sold them?
Sabir Semerkant 00:49:04 - 00:49:04
Sabir Semerkant 00:49:04 - 00:49:07
Is it dry clean? Is it cold wash? Is it hot wash?
Sabir Semerkant 00:49:07 - 00:49:08
Whatever, right?
Sabir Semerkant 00:49:08 - 00:49:15
Or this coffee. Yeah, people should know how to make coffee. No, but how do you make your coffee specifically?
Sabir Semerkant 00:49:15 - 00:49:15
Sabir Semerkant 00:49:15 - 00:50:39
And then can I take that coffee and turn it into an ICE cream? And can I turn it into an iced coffee? Can I bake with it and make cakes with it and stuff? All of that stuff has to do with that experience of the customer. So the customer, user experience, the customer UX is the fourth dimension. So everything that, all of these things that you're doing, you're not doing it to put your brand and yourself on a pedestal of how great you are. And you're right, you should not lie about any of those kind of things by putting up labels just because you got the certification. But it should have a meaning for your brand specifically, right? And what does it mean to the consumer that's getting and engaging with your brand? And that engagement is not only your website, that engagement also that customer UX needs to extend into your YouTube channel, into your social media, into your email marketing, into your other partner collaborations and other types of things you do at the center of it, you're thinking about that customer. And when you think about the customer, it's not a customer. You should actually do your homework and figure out what type of Personas or people that I want to attract and build your customer experience around that. So that if you're putting out social media content, you need to cater to those audiences specifically.
Sabir Semerkant 00:50:40 - 00:50:40
Sabir Semerkant 00:50:40 - 00:50:51
If you are doing paid ads, you need to cater to those customer experiences specifically. When people show up to your site, how are you enhancing that customer experience even further?
Sabir Semerkant 00:50:51 - 00:50:52
Sabir Semerkant 00:50:52 - 00:51:50
So that when you do these things in the customer ux side of the dimension, what you're doing is you are like literally taking out your competition completely because your competition is too obsessed about. Maybe they're using templated pages from Shopify, right? Even on Amazon seller page, you could do a plus content, you could do a brand store. There's a lot of stuff that Amazon gives you to do that. But most sellers, even on Amazon, they don't do that, right? They just put up their product title. They obsess about putting in SEO keywords in the highlights, right? And then seven to ten images they hit or miss, they don't even do a video. And even if they do a video, it's like not really telling a story. It's more like, here you go. This is why you should buy this product, right? But Amazon, a platform which seems like very limiting for sellers, also gives you these amazing opportunities.
Sabir Semerkant 00:51:50 - 00:52:24
You just have to be smart about how do I take that and actually convey to the gardener and to the homemaker and the person who buys it at work and stuff like that. That this listing is really relevant to you specifically, right. Even on a very limited platform like Amazon seller. So when you think about customer experience, put them at the center of that universe, and there are multiple different Personas there. See how you're addressing each one of those Personas? And then you could drive traffic to it. It could be paid, it could be organic. It doesn't matter.
Yeah, that one is one that resonates really closely with me. Like I was telling you before, in all the businesses I run, my focus is really product and CX focused. And I think one of the best ways is getting as close to the ground floor, as close to the customer, and putting your shoes in the customer as possible. So that's not to say you can't use a little of your own ingenuity when thinking about how to solve your problem, but keeping them at the core of what you do is so critical to businesses and a lot of brands. Like you're saying, the other thing that you're saying in all of these points is these things all sound obvious, but they're things that people don't really do. Right. We just said marketing and we said performance and we said customer experience and we said product positioning. And these things all sound like, oh, duh.
But no one's doing them, doing them the right way, which is really funny. Okay, what's next?
Sabir Semerkant 00:53:15 - 00:54:15
The next one, number five, is pricing. And this is where ecommerce people rejoice, right? Because they, oh, I did my competitive pricing. I found we should be at this price. To be competitive. We need to be a nickel less, a dollar less, whatever, right? It's basically the race to the bottom line. And on top of it, if their standard price is lower than everybody else on top of it, there's a whole promotion bag of promotions that you do, right? 10% off, 15% off sign up and get 25% off, 30% off your first order, buy one, get one free bundling, all of these kinds of things, right? But if you take a step back, if you had invested properly in those first four dimensions, right, you can ask for more. And consumers are willing to pay that higher price. As long as you have built that foundation, people are willing to pay for it.
Sabir Semerkant 00:54:15 - 00:54:16
Sabir Semerkant 00:54:17 - 00:55:41
Gigantic example, everybody is walking with it, right? Why is it that you would pay 1200, $400 for an iPhone, and there's a Nokia phone for $150, right? Yeah. $150 versus $1,500. And most people are walking around with that, right? It's not that Apple said, oh, you know what Nokia is selling it for 150. I think we'll price it for $300, right? Or we'll price it for, I don't know, $185 and we'll give them a $15 coupon, right? Didn't happen. It's a gigantic example. I know that everybody's going to go like, well, I'm not a trillion dollar company. No, listen, from the trillion dollar company, there's a lot of lessons you can learn from that too, right? Understanding that, learning about this building, this kind of obsessive culture and creating this cult, you can build such a cult behind your product that through content and all these other investments I talked to you about in the other dimensions, when you build those kinds of things in, you can ask, you have the permission to ask for more. Are you going for a mass market or are you going for that discerning consumer who understands the value of everything else that you have done, right? So if you are Nokia, your races to the bottom line for $150 phones and nobody's buying them at $1,500.
Sabir Semerkant 00:55:41 - 00:57:09
People are lining up at the Apple store for two days in advance because the next big thing is coming out and they want to have it for $1,500 or somebody else got it. And they are willing to even pay them $2,000 to get that thing because they missed out. They overslept that day and they couldn't make it to the store right when it was launched. So that's a very obsessive culture that you can create. You can take a micro part of it, just micro, because Apple is macro is huge, right? Tesla is huge, right? These are gigantic examples, right? But you can take that and you can create that sort of a cult like culture around your brand so that you can do that, so that it's not like Apple doesn't do discounts, right? Apple also, during Black Friday or back to school promotion for the graduate that is done in May or June, they have this graduation special that if you are a graduate, if you can show proof that you are graduate, we'll give you a discount. So that when those kinds of things come out and say, oh, my God, Apple is giving me 15% off. 15, 1515 percent off is a gigantic deal, right? Versus everybody else who's been like price to the bottom, 50%, 75% clear in sale. You never heard of any of these brands, the top brands doing any of these kinds of things.
Sabir Semerkant 00:57:09 - 00:58:09
There are variations of it that you could do, but still that sticks with your brand instead of you constantly promoting and over promoting. If you want to promote, maybe you can promote to a certain customer segments and understanding that you want to reengage them. That's understandable because you had acquired them, you had invested them. But even there, you need to show that value, that, oh, wow, they really want me back. This brand just gave me 15% off discount. They never do that. Like you're talking about it, right? So when it comes to pricing and promotion, that's another type of addiction a lot of e commerce brand owners have, right? Besides spending their money with all these Facebook ads and doing it correctly, these know the roas favorite word of the day, right? Acronym of the day. It's not two X to three X.
Sabir Semerkant 00:58:09 - 00:58:38
If you're lucky, you could be getting ten X to 17 x out of it because you have invested in the right place. And I have clients, even on Amazon ads, they're experiencing ten X to twelve X on their advertising spend and they're increasing it on Facebook. One of my recent clients experienced 17 x roas by optimizing the other experiences. So when that consumer showed up, it was a no brainer they wanted to buy.
Sabir Semerkant 00:58:38 - 00:58:39
Sabir Semerkant 00:58:39 - 00:59:23
And these are not retargeting traffic. So I'm sure that whoever thinks, oh, yeah, he retargeted traffic. No, we excluded people who had visited our site, not only our customers. We wanted to be very clean and we wanted to make sure that this was exclusively completely new to the brand. And we got 17 x out of Facebook ads. I would not claim to be a Facebook ads expert. The thing is, if your foundation is right, then when you have powerful platforms like Facebook and Google, and even though I trashed it throughout this podcast, I could tell you that these platforms are amazing platforms. They're godsend to us, right, for marketers.
Sabir Semerkant 00:59:23 - 00:59:59
But the thing is, if your house is not in order, you're losing and wasting money. But if you're optimizing all these other platforms, then your returns are incredible. Like you put in a dollar into that engine, you get $10 back in revenue, and that's your roas. Now, if you apply the tips and tricks and everything else that you have learned about optimizing your ad creatives and your headlines and primary text and description and your call to action and all those kinds of things, you're going to elevate your game even more.
Yeah, I think that's really important in terms of getting the order of things in order. Okay, so now we've talked about pricing, what comes after pricing and promotion.
Sabir Semerkant 01:00:11 - 01:00:25
So because we're in e commerce, it's all about, you know, even though I've used examples like Amazon Seller and Shopify, but not everybody is an Amazon seller. Not everybody's on Shopify.
Sabir Semerkant 01:00:26 - 01:00:26
Sabir Semerkant 01:00:26 - 01:00:51
And Shopify is a very popular platform. However, the reason I like it is because your time to market and time to react to market is so fast. On a platform like Shopify, that ecosystem is so incredible, like with the App Store with you to take something, and if you're thinking about it this afternoon, you could execute it.
Sabir Semerkant 01:00:51 - 01:00:51
Sabir Semerkant 01:00:51 - 01:01:26
There are so many e commerce platforms that are out there that the time to market means, oh, you know what? We need to work on it. Best case scenario, two weeks, three weeks. We need to talk to our developer. The woocommerce guy is on vacation, so we have to wait. It shouldn't be that. It should be like you have a platform where you have control over content, you have control over promotion, you have control over deploying things. If you came up with it on canva and you want to test it out, you should be able to do it yourself. There shouldn't be no engineering involved in making that happen.
Sabir Semerkant 01:01:26 - 01:01:50
So if you don't have the right tech that you can make changes quickly to your business at the speed of light, then you're losing out. Also, there are certain platforms where a new feature being implemented is going to take. The engineering came back and said, the web dev team said, oh, it's going to be about three months.
Sabir Semerkant 01:01:50 - 01:01:51
Sabir Semerkant 01:01:51 - 01:01:55
Three months is a lifetime. I double businesses in twelve weeks.
Sabir Semerkant 01:01:55 - 01:01:56
Sabir Semerkant 01:01:56 - 01:02:17
You're telling me that this feature is going to take you twelve weeks? I can create double the business in twelve weeks. And this feature I want you to do is going to take you twelve weeks. The platform. That was an acceptable response back in 1995. Blaine, you look like a young person. Were you born in 1995?
Not quite.
Sabir Semerkant 01:02:20 - 01:02:47
So that's how old that is. Right. It was acceptable in 1995. You could get away with it around 99, 90, 819, 90, 819, 99. But in 2024, that's unacceptable. It's unacceptable. And if the platform is making you do that one, it's costing you a lot, I would say, from payroll and freelancers and all sorts of things like that.
Sabir Semerkant 01:02:47 - 01:02:48
Sabir Semerkant 01:02:48 - 01:03:02
And on top of it, time to market and time for you to scale your business. You're getting hurt. And a lot of shopify sites, you could build them of nice, fancy ones. You could invest like 15 to 25K.
Sabir Semerkant 01:03:02 - 01:03:03
Sabir Semerkant 01:03:03 - 01:03:08
Really fancy ones. 15 to. You have a phenomenal site.
Sabir Semerkant 01:03:08 - 01:03:08
Sabir Semerkant 01:03:10 - 01:03:37
But the loss of opportunity by sticking with the same platform you have, you're going to be wasting a lot more than that because your payroll alone for paying those freelancers and developers and even the time to market and even the revenue, the things that marketers need to change throughout the day, they can't do it because they don't have the capability to do that because of the tech that they have selected.
Yeah. As an engineer, you understand the importance of this, but this is something that's so important and influences all sort of strategy. You want to make decisions that don't cripple you and allow you to move quickly because it's not just about the problems that you're solving. For now, it's like how big of the headaches you're creating down the road and you want to build things the right way, but at the same time it is a balancing act. But if you're projecting growth for your business, you don't want to put yourself in a position where tech is your limitation and that's what doesn't allow you to grow.
Sabir Semerkant 01:04:14 - 01:04:58
So one thing there I do want to add, even though I called some of the other things addiction, in case of tech, it tends to be misinformation, right. For example, when you're starting out in that journey, maybe you don't have enough money, right? But a shopify monthly rental costs about a few dollars, like $50 a month, right. Or even less, depending on the plan that you are on, right? That's how much it's going to cost you, right? Versus somebody says, oh, you know what, my cousin knows how to do WordPress and woocommerce. It's free. You know what, look at the total cost of ownership. Yeah. The licensing is open source and it's free. That's true.
Sabir Semerkant 01:04:58 - 01:05:14
You have to pay for hosting, you have to pay for bandwidth, you have to pay for storage, you have to pay for downtime because you're running it. You are the engineer that's going to be running this whole ecosystem, right? Shopify gives you that for $50 a month so that you can run your business.
Sabir Semerkant 01:05:15 - 01:05:15
Sabir Semerkant 01:05:15 - 01:05:35
There are other examples like Shopify, but shopify is the most popular one. That's why I'm using that one there. But when you're looking at anything that's free, nothing is free. Like you have to look at the whole picture of, okay, great. I need hosting, I need storage, I need this, I need that. Who's going to be paying attention to it in the middle of the night when the site goes down?
Well, and not just that, another thing that comes into this is the human capital risk that you have. So if you have a system that's very specific. And only one person knows how to operate it versus just setting something up on Shopify, where if an IC or a contributor kind of falls out of your orbit and you can't work with them anymore, you can bring someone in who can pick up and go exactly where they're off, and you can find them relatively easily. But if you have something that's super homegrown and technical and weird, you're going to have to blow it up and rebuild from scratch.
Sabir Semerkant 01:06:04 - 01:06:05
Right? Yes.
Sabir Semerkant 01:06:06 - 01:06:25
They're holding your business hostage. Literally. They could come back and go like, you know what? You were paying me $50 an hour. That's not enough. Inflation is going up. You need to be paying me $125 an hour. Now, you'll eat that. You'll eat it because otherwise your business might be going down.
Sabir Semerkant 01:06:26 - 01:06:52
And if you don't pay that guy, depending on the tech decision you have made, maybe the pool of people that understand that tech is very small, especially if it's super know. Some people say, oh, you know what? We'll build it ourselves. Okay? Who's going to take care of it? Exactly, right? Who's going to take care of this thing after we have a fallout? Or you don't like to do this anymore because now you want to find yourself in Hawaii.
Sabir Semerkant 01:06:52 - 01:06:53
Sabir Semerkant 01:06:53 - 01:07:34
Who's going to take care of this thing? That's why it is a very critical decision when you're considering your tech stack that you're doing and you're married to it, and then maybe moving. Just imagine all the data that you have collected on this custom platform or even woocommerce and stuff, when you decide like, oh, you know what I just heard Sabir say that you should go to Shopify. Imagine the are the. Those are very critical. Might as well if you're starting. You said that, Blaine, that there are listeners in your audience that are starting their journey, right? Start it correctly.
Sabir Semerkant 01:07:34 - 01:07:34
Sabir Semerkant 01:07:34 - 01:07:49
There are certain things you will have plenty of problems to solve. Plenty, right. With your product, the labeling, understanding, government compliance, all sorts of things. You have a nice bag of surprises coming to you when you get into business.
Sabir Semerkant 01:07:50 - 01:07:50
Sabir Semerkant 01:07:51 - 01:08:05
Why add more to it? Certain things should not be big decisions. You should just take those in because you will have your own set of problems to handle in that business.
Sabir Semerkant 01:08:06 - 01:08:06
And another thing that I think is really important for founders that are just starting, it's just like, use what's out there.
Sabir Semerkant 01:08:13 - 01:08:14
Use what's easy.
Because, like you're saying, focus on the things that really matter that we covered early in the call. Make sure your tech is flexible enough. There's always time where you have money and you want your own really custom homegrown solution, and you want to have the money for a big migration. And Shopify can't do all the things that you want to do. Great. Wait till you're at eight figures, nine figures of revenue, and then you can build it as custom as you want. But until then, build with a smart tech stack in mind. I think that's super important.
Okay, what are we missing?
Sabir Semerkant 01:08:42 - 01:09:11
So we have two more to go. So the next one, number seven, is logistics. You could be starting out, especially in the beginning of your journey. You're doing this out of your garage, right? You're doing this out of. Your mom is helping out. Actually, funny enough, my current client, their mom is helping out with production and order fulfillment, right? But they're growing. So that's where you are in your journey. Or you start out and you go like, okay, you know what? I want to make a right decision.
Sabir Semerkant 01:09:11 - 01:09:24
I want to get a three Pl, right, a third party logistics company to do my order fulfillment for me, right? And then you look around and there are many things that get in the way of that, right? Things like you like them, but they don't like you.
Sabir Semerkant 01:09:24 - 01:09:24
Sabir Semerkant 01:09:24 - 01:10:08
Because you're new. You're new. They have a minimum. They say that if you're doing 1000 orders per month, but I'm not doing 1000 orders per month, I'm doing 200 or 100. Well, too small for us, no, right? Or then what you do in that journey, you find somebody who finally says yes to you, right? And they happen to be a small warehouse, very small number of people. You start building it out, at least for time being, you're happy, right? You give that stuff to them and then you start growing and then you start seeing all these problems occur, right? The orders are not going out on time before they said, oh, if the orders come in by 04:00 p.m. We're going to ship it out the same day.
Sabir Semerkant 01:10:08 - 01:10:08
Sabir Semerkant 01:10:08 - 01:10:15
Now it's been three days. The orders you got on Monday and it's Thursday today, those orders didn't go out.
Sabir Semerkant 01:10:15 - 01:10:16
Sabir Semerkant 01:10:17 - 01:11:04
Holidays. You put so much into your marketing, into ads, you optimize all of your other dimensions, right? You're doing all the right things. But your partner did not go and do holiday hires in order to get that stuff out. Maybe part of it is your fault. Maybe you didn't do the proper forecasting and tell them in September that October through December is going to be ridiculous growth for you, right. Or you didn't know any better. The logistics question should be something that you should ask at least annually, right. That has to do with your suppliers, it has to do with your order fulfillment partners, your shipping couriers, your customer service.
Sabir Semerkant 01:11:04 - 01:11:08
Customer service also falls into logistics and operations.
Sabir Semerkant 01:11:08 - 01:11:08
Sabir Semerkant 01:11:09 - 01:11:56
Your customer service in the beginning may be you and your girlfriend and your brother and his wife in the initial stages, but as you're scaling, you might start hiring some college grads or college students to come help you out. But eventually you're going to get to a place that you need to think about more of a scale and proper level of scale. This dimension should always be in your mind, especially for our clients. When we are going through the rapid two X mastermind, we advise them to as we are growing these things. Always, every single week in those twelve weeks, are you getting the orders out? It's great that we're producing more orders and charging these cards. Are you getting them out on time?
Sabir Semerkant 01:11:56 - 01:11:56
Sabir Semerkant 01:11:57 - 01:12:05
Every single week and every single week. If it's a third party logistics that's helping you with that, you need to be on the phone with them every single Monday.
Sabir Semerkant 01:12:05 - 01:12:05
Sabir Semerkant 01:12:06 - 01:12:17
What happened last week? Or how come the orders didn't go out on time, right. And on the other side of the logistics being your supply chain and manufacturing and stuff like that, what does the lead time look like?
Sabir Semerkant 01:12:17 - 01:12:17
Sabir Semerkant 01:12:17 - 01:13:20
If you run out of inventory and you always buy inventory from China or anywhere from Asia, and you were getting pretty cheap shipping and freight because it took four months for it to get here to United States and most of your customers are in, are, you know, did you take that into consideration when you're thinking about the what, how can you reduce that time? Can it be a little bit more expensive? And you can get it done in Brooklyn or Kansas City so that you can get it quicker and maybe you can ask the person to just FedEx it to you versus waiting four months or absorbing a ridiculous amount of plane ticket, basically literally putting it on a plane so that you can get it in here. Because if you run out of inventory, all these things that we're doing is wasted. And if you are a seller on Amazon, you're going to be hurt big time because Amazon doesn't want to be out of inventory when there's a demand for a product.
Sabir Semerkant 01:13:20 - 01:13:21
Sabir Semerkant 01:13:22 - 01:13:33
It hurts you many, many different ways and people forget about you. They could switch their brand because you ran out and then getting them to reengage with your brand, it's going to hurt you again. Yeah.
And especially, I know you mentioned Amazon, but even like TikTok shop right now, they're really digging brands that aren't able to fulfill. So if your supply chain isn't airtight from both a supply side and getting the orders out, it's going to have consequences on your ability to distribute and push volume.
Sabir Semerkant 01:13:52 - 01:13:52
So, Sabir, we've made it through seven. And now ready for the last final, the big one. Number eight.
Sabir Semerkant 01:13:58 - 01:14:23
Number eight is the human element. It's your team. So the 8th dimension being team. When I say team, I don't mean people who are on your w two, because most people, when I say team, they think it means they're on your payroll. You're paying them as an employee. When I say team, I mean the agencies. Anyone that touches your business. Anyone, right.
Sabir Semerkant 01:14:23 - 01:14:48
If your mom is touching your business, she's part of the team, right? If you hire people on fiverr and they're touching your business, they are part of your team. And the team that worked with you in the very beginning doesn't mean that they are the right answer at this growth level. You have to think about, do you have the right team? Do you have the right people handling these things for you?
Sabir Semerkant 01:14:48 - 01:14:48
Sabir Semerkant 01:14:48 - 01:14:58
Or can they play a different role? Maybe when the business. Right. And you're growing now, do they really belong in that role anymore?
Sabir Semerkant 01:14:58 - 01:14:58
Sabir Semerkant 01:14:58 - 01:15:26
Because typically you always have this issue, know, let's say your brother, right. Let's cause some serious issues with you, Blaine, right? What's your brother's name? Troy. So, Troy, you start up a business, right, at this. You know, he loves the title. You make him chief marketing officer, right? Is he older than you? Younger than you?
He's younger. And we've done this. We've started businesses together.
Sabir Semerkant 01:15:30 - 01:15:34
You're 25, he's 23, and he's a CMO, and you're the CEO.
Sabir Semerkant 01:15:34 - 01:15:35
Sabir Semerkant 01:15:35 - 01:16:16
So CMO, it works for the first 18 months. Everything is fine. But you're getting into issues now, right? Because the marketing strategy is not there. Because he doesn't have the experience to give you that, right? And that's your brother. And it's a very tough conversation to be had right now. You guys decide, we need to bring a CMO. What role can he play? You find out that he was really good at getting influencers, so his role could change, too. Being the person who works with influencers to bring them, to talk to them, to get them to collaborate, to give them the gift box and the packaging experience and all of that kind of stuff.
Sabir Semerkant 01:16:16 - 01:16:27
He's phenomenal at that. He loves doing that 24/7 right? That's where the rub comes in, right? I was the CMO. Why am I just doing the influencer stuff now?
Sabir Semerkant 01:16:27 - 01:16:28
Sabir Semerkant 01:16:28 - 01:16:57
That's why. Smart. When you're thinking about these things from very early on, you have to set expectations. I'm the CEO for now. You're the CMO for now. But we will always be co founders. That's our title. We're just putting these hats on because we cannot afford to bring on the people who need to have these seats for us, right? And run this organization properly.
Sabir Semerkant 01:16:57 - 01:16:57
Sabir Semerkant 01:16:57 - 01:17:59
When it comes to platforms like Fiver and upwork, I have nothing against them, right? But you have to kiss a lot of frogs for you to find your prince and princesses, right? You could test it at $50 at a time, right? And find out. And I found phenomenal help on fiver, but it took me quite a bit of investment to find those people. When you find that freelancer that really knows their way around Shopify, keep them on your payroll, thank them whenever you give them something. When you find the right person, right? Not that you're desperate for a person, you have to find the right person to help you with those kinds of things, right? When you find that Facebook ads, person that really knows their stuff really well, right? Continue to work with them and stuff like that. But that's a decision. That's an ongoing, very fluid decision. Because just like, as much as you can hire and fire them, they can hire and fire you too, at the same time, right? Because life happens, things change. Whatever.
Sabir Semerkant 01:17:59 - 01:19:09
Agencies could say that, oh, you know what? You guys are not meeting our minimums, right? And you love that agency. Go like, goodbye, we're leaving, right? That's why the team part of that dimension needs to be, you need to be actively managing the 8th dimension. And when you're thinking about the team, the team needs to extend into the whole ecosystem of people who touch your business and all the seven prior seven dimensions that I mentioned, especially with product positioning and brand positioning and stuff like that. They really need to understand your ethos and they have to live by it. I don't care if they're a fiver person. They need to understand what your brand is about. How do you position it, how do you talk to the customer? How do you engage with the consumers? How do you tell a story, stuff like that? Everything that I just mentioned in the other dimensions, do they understand that really well? And can they actually execute on that? Whether their function is customer service or they're packing up boxes in your three Pl, they need to understand that. And those are the eight dimensions.
Yeah, I think that last one is so important. And especially I think the theme of our conversation has been things that seem obvious, but maybe people don't do all the way through or don't think about all the facets and the different parts of each one of these pillars, but especially on that 8th one, I think everyone here have a great team, have a team that gets along and works together, but people aren't thinking about holding that same level of accountability to their contractors or to their Vas or to other people who are just involved in the operations. And maybe that end customer experience is the whole team. Not only that, it's like, it's culture. And that culture that you establish as a team, it pertains to everyone that you work with and everyone you bring into your ecosystem, because that eventually it affects your product which touches your customer. So I think those eight pillars are absolutely massive. And I encourage anyone who's listening to really think through your own business and think know, not just, oh, do I check the boxes on these pillars, but how much farther can I get down and really get into the essence of each one of them? So, Sabir, thank you so much for coming on the show today. For our listeners who are tuning in, where can we find more about you? Where can we connect with you on social? Yeah, why don't you shout out where we can find you online?
Sabir Semerkant 01:20:31 - 01:20:37
So what I would recommend to your audience, because I strongly believe in the right type of education.
Sabir Semerkant 01:20:37 - 01:20:38
Sabir Semerkant 01:20:38 - 01:21:38
What I would recommend and I will invite your audience to join me on a live workshop. It's upcoming next Tuesday. It's growthbysabir comworkshop. So growthbysabir s a b I rworkshop. If they go there, they can register for free to attend my free workshop where I actually unpack these things with more examples, more detail, because I want to arm people with the right information. And if they believe that once they attend the workshop and if they believe that this is something that they would like to implement, we do have the rapid two x mastermind where like minded entrepreneurs can join in that. And it's a very select group that everybody is highly motivated to make a change to their business. And typically, if they fall in this five hundred k to five million dollars range in EcoM sales, so we do have that 500k.
Sabir Semerkant 01:21:38 - 01:22:02
So five hundred K to five million if they fall in that range, definitely if they attend the workshop, they'll get a ton of high value content that they could go and start implementing it but if they want to have that guided implementation through those twelve weeks, they could apply to be part of the mastermind from there. Awesome.
Well, Sabir, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was a blast and can't wait to start auditing our own businesses and applying the ads a little bit more.
Sabir Semerkant 01:22:12 - 01:22:15
Thank you Blaine for having me on your show. I really appreciate you.

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