Cover image of Indie Brand Builder:  discussions with consumer product entrepreneurs and industry experts on how to build a 7 figure business.

Indie Brand Builder: discussions with consumer product entrepreneurs and industry experts on how to build a 7 figure business.

Each week Jeremy Interviews successful creative entrepreneurs and industry experts who can help you reach your goal of building a 7-figure brand. Topics include wholesaling, e-commerce, manufacturing, retail, marketing and business management. Whether you’re just getting started in developing a product based brand, or are looking to build an existing brand, you’ll find a ton of useful, actionable information here.

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10: How to master your business with an Entrepreneurial Operating System - with Mike Paton of EOS Worldwide

Mike Paton has spent most of his life  learning from entrepreneurs.  Today, he spends all  his time giving back - as an Author, award-winning Speaker, certified EOS Implementer & the Visionary of EOS Worldwide.  Specifically, Paton helps entrepreneurs clarify, simplify and achieve their vision – by mastering the simple concepts and practical tools he’ll be sharing with us today. I first met Mike Paton at a digital agency conference about three years ago where he was a featured speaker. Now I'd never heard of Mike before or the entrepreneurial operating system (EOS) that he was talking about, but one of the other agencies there had – and they were at least 10 times the size of most of the other agencies in the room,  so that got my attention! In this session we did, Paton reviewed the main concepts of his the entrepreneurial operating system, and then had us work through a series of questions known as the vision traction organizer (or VTO), which had this group of creative entrepreneurs completely engaged. By the time I was on my flight home, I was already well into Mike's book, get a grip, that I had acquired a copy of  at the conference, and I was eager to begin implementing the entrepreneurial operating system EOS in my business When I came onboard so young, which is the business I now Co-run with my wife, The first thing we did was the VTO exercise that Mike had us do at the conference. We also created an accountability chart, which Michael share more about in a moment, and implemented weekly meetings to review our scorecard. Having had this Entrepreneurial Operating System system in place now for the past nearly 2 years, I can sincerely say that it has transformed the way we run our business. We are now proactive about solving problems and able to consistently monitor and grow the business with confidence and clarity.   6 Key Components of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) Entrepreneurs spend so much time in their optimistic futures that they’re in danger of not tending to the foundations. This is why most business owners aren’t getting everything they want from their business. This lack of fulfillment and progress exists to the extent that they have not fully implemented the 6 key components of the Entrepreneurial Operations system. VisionGetting everyone in the organization aligned on where you’re going and how you plan to get there PeopleGetting great people in the organization to help you achieve the vision Datarunning the business on facts and figures rather than opinions and egos IssuesGetting good at prioritizing and solving your issues as they arise and addressing core causes rather than just the symptoms Processdo the most important things the right and best way, every time TractionInstilling discipline and accountability everywhere in the organization   In what order should you implement the tools? The first priority is to build the traction muscle Accountability Chart Level 10 meeting pulse Scorecard - 5 to 15 leading indicators that are tracked on a weekly basis Rocks -  3- 7 of the company's 90 day priorities Then take on the VTO   The distinction between Visionaries and Integrators The Visionary RoleVisionaries are inspiring and have tons of creative ideas - but don;t like to stay grounded. They live at the 30,000 ft level of the business  and don't like getting dragged into the details or having to deal with the rudimentary aspects of the business. They are great at big relationships, imagining what’s possible and breaking through barriers. The Integrator Role Integrators love getting into the trenches, love listening to the 20 big ideas but then settling on the one or 2 that will move the business forward. They are the ones who are In the trenches executing on the vision every day and making what’s possible actually happen. Know who you are One key to the EOS system is recognizing who you are at the core, and making sure you have someone in the organization who can complement either your Visionary or Integrator approach.


18 May 2016

Rank #1

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12: How to Increase Traffic and Conversions on your eCommerce Site

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, we didn’t put all of these strategies together over a weekend. It’s been a slow steady, incremental layering of tactics combined with a whole lot of trial and error. A marathon rather than a sprint. However, the combined effect of having these systems in place has helped us dramatically increase eCommerce traffic and conversions, which continue to grow upon themselves. In this article, I’ll lay out a complete playbook of strategies we use to promote our online store at www.soyoung.ca and increase eCommerce traffic and conversions. I’ve grouped the strategies to increase eCommerce traffic and conversions in terms of where they fall in the marketing and sales funnel sequence. For those unfamiliar with the concept of “the funnel”, top funnelactivities are designed to attract new visitors who are unfamiliar with our products to our website. Mid-funnelactivities are designed to build a relationship with the user, who is still warming up to our brand. Bottom funnel activities are intended to convince people who have an interest in our products to actually make a purchase.   Top Funnel Strategies to Increase eCommerce Traffic and Conversions  While SEO is the best way to get traffic, it is generally only going to deliver substantial traffic when you are selling an extremely specialized product that has very little online competition. For everything else, you will need another strategy to increase eCommerce traffic and conversions. As the purveyors of lunch boxes, backpacks and diaper bags, there was no way we could compete for these valuable keywords in organic search, so here is what we do to get new visitors to discover our products: Paid Blog Placements Being featured on the blogs of influencers is a great way to generate traffic and build instant trust in your products. While we do a fair bit of PR and get free coverage on many sites, some of the biggest hits we’ve gotten have been paid placements with well established bloggers who align with our audience. While not cheap, in some cases we have seen our traffic temporarily increase by a multiple of 10 with a single mention on a blog. This can be a very effective way to drive traffic and reach a new audience. Facebook and Google shopping ads There are a lot of ways to do banner advertising online, however we have found that Facebook and Google Shopping are most effective for reaching people who have no awareness of our products. Facebook allows for very tight targeting allowing us to reach exactly the type of profile that we have found are most interested in our products – mainly mothers of children between the ages of 3 and 10 with some university education. The “lookalike audiences” feature in Facebook allows us to upload lists of our past customers so that Facebook can use its algorithm to find similar targets. It’s been a very cost effective way to generate valuable new traffic. Google Shopping is great because, given the visual appeal of our products, prospective customers see an image of our designs in response to a specific search query.   Mid Funnel Strategies One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to pay for traffic to your site, then fail to capture the opportunity to continue marketing to that visitor. Rarely will people purchase a product they have just stumbled upon, so you need strategies for keeping them in the loop once they’ve visited your site and have an idea of what your brand is about. “Win this” email call to action In order to capture email addresses, you need an opt in offer that is compelling enough for a first time visitor to fill out. While we have used coupon codes in the past, the most effective strategy we’ve used is a pop up offering the potential to win a substantial prize: 5 of our products valued at over $300 to anyone who subscribes . We use a third party service called Opt-in monster to create pop-up with an “exit intent” trigger. This is a popup that appears as soon as the user’s mouse scrolls up to the top left corner of the screen (the movement that they would make before entering a new URL or hitting the back button – thus the term “exit-intent”). [ Try it out: go to www.soyoung.ca and spend a second on the home page. Then move your mouse up towards the back button in your browser – then see what happens next!]  It is extremely effective and has multiplied our opt-in rate for newsletters. Marketing the contest to our social media followers has also been a great way to convert those followers into newsletter subscribers. Retargeting You may find it annoying when you see ads for a website that you recently visited following you around the web, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that is an extremely effective form of advertising. If you have spent money to bring a visitor to your site, and they don’t fill out a subscriber form, you have essentially wasted your money unless you have a way to continue reaching out to them. Retargeting is great because it constantly reinforces your brand with previous visitors, but you only pay for actual clicks back to your website. This is by far the most effective way to keep non-subscribers in the loop, so that you can increase their relationship with your brand and products.   Bottom Funnel Strategies Bottom funnel strategies are designed to “seal the deal” with visitors who have already visited your site and built a relationship with your brand, but have not yet made a purchase. Subscriber and purchase Automation Sequences We have two main email sequences that we send to subscribers. The first occurs as soon as they join our email list. They get a series of emails over 3 – 4 weeks including a welcome email with social media links, an email containing a list of testimonials from satisfied customers, an email with pictures of celebrities using our products, and an email with a list of our most popular products. These are very effective at getting people to come back to the site and consider purchasing our products. The second email sequence is triggered by a purchase on our site. The buyer will receive a thank you email letting them know that we are here for them should they have any issue with the product and thanking them for the purchase. The second email encourages them to share a photo of their purchase on our Instagram account with an incentive for a discount off their next purchase. A third email requests a review of the product on our site. And finally they will also receive an email highlighting our most popular products should they choose to make another purchase. Customized Cart abandonment Sequences Finally, we have upped our game when it comes to shopping cart abandonment. Shopify has a basic responder built into the software, but the settings are limited and it is a simple plain-text email. Recently we decided to start sending two emails to anyone who submitted all their purchase information but did not complete the sale (also known as “cart abandonment”). The first arrives just 10 minutes after they leave the site with a full cart, and a second email arrives the next day. Both of these emails utilize the buyer’s first name in the copy, feature appealing hero images and include a personalized message from a member of our staff encouraging them to get in touch if they have any questions.   Conclusion This has been a gradual process so it’s easy to overlook the dramatic changes from last year. When looking at the data however, our first month of 2016 saw traffic on our US site increase by 25% over the same period last year and sales increase by nearly 70%. If you have any questions about the 6 strategies to increase eCommerce traffic and conversions, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer!


7 Jun 2016

Rank #2

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07: How to Create an Irresistible Brand with Will Leonard of Blu Kicks

Will Leonard and his mother Victoria started the Blu Kicks brand with the simple idea of creating a better travel and vacation shoe, Inspired by the fish they encountered on a family trip to hawaii, Will and victoria began producing an ocean themed line of colourful slip ons that featured original fish artwork and cool laid back designs. The Blu Kicks collection has now grown to include loafers and chukkas that retain the casual, classic style of the original sneakers, while giving them a line of products that they can now sell year round. I first read about Blu Kicks’ brand on the Shopify blog and I was impressed by the products, the social mission - blue kicks donate a portion of every sale to ocean related causes - and the strength of the brand they had created. The photos were great, there was a clear focus to the Blu Kicks brand and a strong narrative that immediately communicated what they were all about. Starting out with No experience in footwear. After starting out by handpainting shoes themselves, it took will and victoria 2-3 years to figure out how to manufacture the shoe. The Blu Kicks brand launched in 2012 with 2 designs, sold mostly to friends and family - and they quickly realized they needed to make more styles if they were going to grow the brand. Will credits those first few years figuring out the business as really helping to define the strong DNA of the brand. Also, having a small team driven by the founders has helped. They now have guidelines and core assets that guide their creative process, such as creating outsoles featuring original artwork and donating a portion to ocean charities. Now they’ve taken their commitment to extending the brand a step further venturing into retail with a pop-up store and a studio that’s open to the public. Work Dynamic with a Family Will talked briefly about the challenges of working with family. It takes an adjustment period as you learn how to relate in new ways and not just default  to your long established dynamic. Once you have more structure in the business and roles get more defined it gets easier. Key to successfully marketing the products Treating the products with respect by Investing in good photos and content PR outreach has been the biggest driver of sales - Bloggers/online editors Newsletters Online advertising Try to think about the marketing from the beginning of the product development process and build it into the products themselves How to tell a big story for a small line Use place to drive storytelling and develop a deeper narrative Use humor and be authentic about your small size to present yourself as an underdog Product Development Process Targeted release dates are based on lead time with factory 8-10 months lead time Start broad around what could be a new story/material/artist/angle Try to envision the full line before engaging production partners 2-3 rounds of samples and refining ideas Sales Email outreach works now that a network has been established and more people have heard of the Blu Kicks brand Tradeshows have been successful at spreading the word Still will go door-to-door and show up in person with product Biggest Advice and Learnings Try to start your day with easy wins to get momentum before moving on to tougher, less tangible activities like product dev and Keep moving forward, it’s natural to encounter setbacks when you are doing something new Don’t over analyze, just stay in action. You may not see the results right away but they may show up when you least expect it There is no formula so trial and error is the only way to figure out what’s going to work At some point you’ve got to go for it, it’s a leap of faith On the other hand, you need to spend as much time as possible understanding how your industry works and defining your niche


12 Apr 2016

Rank #3

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08: How to Improve your Brand Image - step by step training episode

Photography Browse any high-end magazine like a Vanity Fair or Vogue for a reminder of how much premier lifestyle brands value photography.  It is one of the most important assets in your marketing arsenal and a critical factor if you want to improve your brand image Generally, you can break your photography down into two categories (I’ll cover both): Product photography, whose primary purpose is to provide detailed views of the product to someone who may be considering purchasing it online or through a catalog. Lifestyle photography, which is meant to associate your products with desirable people, experiences, and feelings. So lets’ explore which factors have the most impact on improving your brand’s image through photography… Lighting Lighting is crucial to taking a high-quality photo. For product photography, this means bright lights that do not reflect off the product or cast any undesirable shadows. When it comes to lifestyle photography, you’ll want to ensure that you have relatively flat, even light that does not cast harsh shadows across the product or the model. If shooting outside, you may require a reflector to augment the lighting of your shots. Here are a few techniques for getting outdoor lighting right Models It seems obvious but I’ll say it anyway: attractive models make your products appear more desirable. You may not have the budget for a supermodel, however spending a little extra to hire someone with modeling experience can make a huge difference to getting great photos and improve your brand image. Styling & Locations There’s nothing worse than reviewing photos that you’ve just spent a lot of time and money on, and noticing that hair is out of place, or something is off with the background that makes an otherwise perfect shot unusable If you’re doing a lifestyle shoot, you should carefully plan clothing, accessories, props and locations. Scout locations in advance to choose angles and backgrounds before models are standing around waiting. Consider having somebody at the shoot dedicated to keeping an eye on makeup, hair, upturned collars etc. It will save you a lot of grief in post-production. If you want to up your game, you could even choose a theme that will inform your location and styling choices. Shooting When shooting products, you’ll want to shoot as many angles and use cases as possible. This’ll give viewers on the Internet more confidence when purchasing a product that they have not seen in person. If you’re selling clothes, you may need to consider whether you will show them on a model or off – or both. In either case product photography works best when shot against a white or neutral background. You might consider purchasing a light box that ensures a consistent background and flat lighting, if appropriate for your products.   Design and Layout   The main principle I apply to design and layouts is minimalism. Minimalism is not just about showing less, it’s about clarity. It is much more difficult to come up with one statement, image or design that represents your brand then simply throwing in as much as you can fit on the page – but if your goal is to improve your brand image, the effort is well worth it. Minimalism By surrounding your images or messages with negative space (or white space) , you’re unconsciously communicating a sense of clarity and focus that is typically associated with desirable brands. Less is more, and taking the time to refine your message results in a premium perception. Avoid hyperbole and work hard to remove any words images or design details that are superfluous. Where appropriate, try to use a single image to convey an idea. Consistency Strong brands understand their essence and do their best to communicate this in every medium. If your photos, fonts, and overall design share a common visual aesthetic it will give your brand a perceived premium value. You should choose no more than 2 or 3 different fonts and be very intentional about their use. The style of photography and other visual assets should also be consistent across all of your materials.   Social proof Most people respond strongly to social influence. In other words, they are looking for cues and clues that whatever actions they take and believes they hold our aligned with society as a whole.  In aligning your products with notable people or publications,  as well as the positive sentiments of previous customers you will be improving your branding by giving it support and validation. Press coverage Sometimes the main value of press coverage is not the coverage itself, but the ability to leverage that coverage as social proof. SoYoung features the logos of major publications that have covered us on our homepage. Currently, these include the Washington Post, Martha Stewart Living, Oprah Magazine, and People Magazine. Are you impressed? Yep, that’s how it works. Testimonials Even if you haven’t been covered by major publications yet, you can solicit testimonials from satisfied customers to increase trust with prospective buyers. If possible, feature the full name and an image of the person  – anything that increases legitimacy. Celebrity In today’s celebrity-saturated culture, some opinions are worth more than others. SoYoung happens to have photos of celebrities using our products, so this is incredibly valuable in building brand credibility and improving your branding. If appropriate, you may consider gifting products to celebrities in an effort to get photographs of celebrities using your products. The photos typically take care of themselves (Most of the photos we have were found on celebrity gossip sites, which customers and retailers alerted us to)   Brand Messaging & Copy Your messaging needs to strike a balance between describing what your product is and illustrating its benefits. I am often surprised how often taglines leave me with no idea what the product actually is or how it is different. In the early stages of your brand, being able to powerfully summarize your business in one sentence is more important than having a catchy phrase.   Description Your first task is to clearly describe your product in unambiguous terms. Explain what your product or brand is, who it is for and what it’s primary value is to the purchaser. Use this format to start with. Our product/brand helps _(who)_  to do/feel/achieve _(what)__ so that they can (why)____ This may end up sounding a bit generic, but it will give you a good start. Feel free to use it as a foundation for crafting something more creative: Benefits Once you have created a clear description, you should develop short statements around the unique benefits to your custom. I like to choose three main benefits that focus on the emotional needs of your customer in the most aspirational terms possible. Common areas to explore are: saving time/money, convenience, freedom, attractiveness, wealth, health, and safety. As a general rule, I like to begin all benefit statements with an action verb such as “get”, “achieve”, “create”, etc. These types of words help you focus on clearly communicating the transformation a buyer can hope to receive by purchasing your product. Features At the finest level of detail, you will need to list your products features. Statistics and hard facts are the way to go here. This type of information is most appropriate on a product page, once people have a high-level affinity for your brand and products.   Video Video can be very effective at deepening affinity for your products and allow you to improve your brand image. You don’t need a Hollywood level production to make an effective video, however, you should have some baseline quality standards – the 10-year-old camcorder in your closet is probably not going to cut it. Fortunately, the equipment required in making a professional looking video is becoming increasingly affordable and user-friendly. Shooting video is something you can undertake yourself. However depending on your ambitions and budget, you might also consider outsourcing. There are many talented and affordable videographers who can save you a lot of time and help you get something that you’re happy with. If you want to get deeper into producing your own video, Wistia has some great tutorials. (We also use Wistia’s video hosting service) Video Equipment Most recent smartphones take decent HD video. However for superior results, consider a digital SLR or mirrorless camera with a high-quality lens that will provide some depth of field – a true professional effect. We use a Sony a6000, which costs about $600. It takes excellent video and has the added bonus of autofocus in video mode (which many digital SLR’s don’t have), ensuring your subject is always in focus. Sound One of the biggest giveaways of an amateur video production is poor audio – usually resulting from using the built-in mic on the camera itself. For best results, you’re going to want to use either an external boom mic or a lav mic which can be attached to the person speaking. We use a $200 Bluetooth clip mic designed specifically for our camera that does away with the inconvenience of wires and delivers Lighting As with photography, having the right lighting can make a huge difference to how your video turns out – though modern cameras are more forgiving in lower light. Still, if you’re shooting indoors you will probably want some lighting equipment to ensure the shot looks bright and crisp. The main principle is to ensure your foreground subject – especially if it is a person’s face – is well lit. Here’s a good tutorial from Wistia on putting a simple lighting kit together. Shooting As with photography, you’ll want to ensure you have a list of shots and a script, if relevant, before your shoot. You should also scout your locations in advance and plan your angles. If you want to take your video production to the next level, you’ll need to cover a few different perspectives and mix in what is called B-roll. This is supplemental imagery that supports the narration and gives you an elegant way to edit together a couple of different takes. Shooting from different angles and distances also helps break up the shots and add visual interest. You can see all of this demonstrated in a video we shot for SoYoung’s Charlie Bag Editing Assuming your video is primarily for web consumption, you’ll want to make it as short and focused as possible by editing it down to the essentials. Build around the narration or visual script and break up your shots, so that the viewer isn’t just watching a single view of someone speaking at the camera the whole time. In terms of audio editing, some light background music can help create an overall mood and elevate the video, particularly if it’s short. Just make sure it doesn’t overpower any narration. Finally, improve your brand image by making sure you add your logo and a call to action to the beginning and ending of the video, in case someone is watching it on a platform like Youtube rather than your website.   How to Improve your Brand Image: Conclusion This is a high-level overview on how to improve your brand image, however, I hope it gives you some motivation and insight on where to look for the quickest wins. If you’re planning on outsourcing any of these tasks, the downloadable cheat sheet will provide you with talking points to discuss with your provider, and ensure you’ve got everything covered.


9 May 2016

Rank #4

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03: Putting yourself out there with Catherine Choi of SoYoung, who overcame her personal fears to launch a 7-figure bag line

Catherine Choi is the founder a president of SoYoung, a line of eco friendly bags for families which includes lunch boxes, cooler bags backpacks and diaper bags made from natural fabrics. Since starting the brand nearly 10 years ago she has grown SoYoung into a 7 figure business with products that are sold all over the world including in about 500 North American retailers. SoYoung has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, People Magazine, and on national US cable shows like The Today Show and The View. Catherine is also my wife and now partner in SoYoung.  I joined the business full time in 2014 - after she had successfully established the brand and needed help taking the business to the next level. But at one point Catherine was as unlikely an entrepreneur as you’ll find and she is here to share her journey with us today


25 Feb 2016

Rank #5

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06: How to raise investment capital on CircleUp’s crowdfunding platform - with Steve Vigilante from CircleUp

It was a rude awakening for us to realize that the more success we achieved with SoYoung,  the more cash we were going to need to finance production and growth - but if you’ve never raised capital before, the process can be daunting Well fortunately the times are changing and there are some new funding platforms emerging in the consumer products space that make it much easier for small businesses to raise capital by helping to bring together angel investors and growth stage product entrepreneurs. One of the leaders in this space is San francisco-based Circleup’s crowdfunding platform . I first heard about Circleup crowdfunding platform about a year ago and I was impressed by their process and the companies that they had worked with. Though we decided not to proceed With raising money at that time, we have stayed in touch with Circleup and are considering doing a round of financing with them in the future. I recently reconnected with Steve Vigilante from Circle up whom gave me an overview of how the platform works, and how it might benefit your    business.  Access to a deep pool of Angel InvestorsOne of the main benefits of Circle Up is that it can support companies that are smaller or at an earlier stage of development than what private equity investors would typically look at, by providing access to a deep pool of Angel investors. Circleup typically works with companies whose revenues are in the $500,000 - $10,000,000 range.  CircleUp is focussed exclusively on the Consumer products spaceThe other benefit is that circle up is focussed exclusively  on the consumer products space - so it’s really opening up a new market that traditionally had struggled to get access to equity funding.  The difference between Kickstarter and CircleupNow you probably heard of crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo -  which at first glance May appear to be a similar concept, without the downside of giving up equity. I asked Steve to explain the difference. Essentially Kickstarter and Indiegogo (and others) are for testing out products and getting some seed financing for an initial production run. Circleup is for companies that already have traction in the marketplace and need to raise a significant amount of money to grow their business. The average check size is much bigger as are the amount of funds raised. SO Kickstarter may be a great way to test and finance the manufacuring for your first product, but if you’re looking for serious funding to grow your business, you’ll need more than crowdfunding can provide.  The Platform is Curated - both on the investor and entrepreneur sideSo chances are you’ve still got  a lot of questions about who these investors are and how the application process works as we did certainly did when we first began speaking with circle up. Steve points out that there is a vigerous curation process and they are very selective about who they allow on the platform on both the entrepreneur and investor side. Circle up accepts between 5%-10% of companies that apply in order to keep quality high. In order for someone to become an investor on the platform they must be an accredited investor, but Circleup also does additional vetting to insure investors understand the consumer products space,  ConfidentialityOk, so getting on the platform is one thing, but how does it  once you’r accepted. How is confidentiality handles and do you get any say over who your investors are? While high level info on your offer is available publically, the platform provides each entrepreneur looking to raise funds with a private deal room to which they control access. This allows you to only share confidential details about your business with investors that you pre-screen.  Strategic vs Passive InvestorsAnother concern is what role the investors may play in shaping your business. For some companies, the there may be great appeal in bringing on a strategic investor who also has industry experience that he can lend to your business as a mentor and advisor. For others you may be looking for more of a passive investor who will not meddle in the everyday aspects of the business. It’s completely up to you as to what type of relationships you wouldlike to foster through the platform.  Supporting you through the processNo, well there is a cost that typically between 5% of your  raise,  the main attractions for me to Circle up is,  in addition to the investors, is the fact that, as someone who's never been through the fundraising process before they offer a ton of support and resources to  help you build a compelling pitch and increase your odds of success. Now, while you will ultimately have control over how you value your company,  Steve cautions that it’s very easy to become deluded by the frothiness of tech valuations and even some of the exceptional cases in the consumer space. This is the biggest impediment to being successful at getting a deal done. So, whether you’re in a position to raise funds today, or are just thinking ahead to the time when you may may need addtional capital, I storngly suggest you check out Circlup at www.circleup.com  to get a better idea of how the fundraising landscape is changing and what new options are opening up to consumer brands. I’ll be keeping you posted on SoYoung’s fundraising journey which may involve circle up at some point down the line. I’d like to give a special thanks to Steve Vigilante for speaking with Indie brand builder.


5 Apr 2016

Rank #6

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09: How to sell into more retailers - step by step training episode

The key principle in selling wholesale to retailers is to invest time upfront in planning your approach and sales materials. This will allow you to prioritize and focus so that you can go deep into a few areas that will deliver the highest return on your time investment, rather than spreading yourself too thin and getting frustrated.   STEP ONE: Determine your Retail Category Focus While it’s tempting to pursue every retail category for which your products may be eligible when selling wholesale to retailers, it’s best to focus on one at a time in order to make your efforts more efficient and targeted. You can always change things up as you learn more. This means setting up a criteria for determining the best fit for your business.    Create a list of categories you could target Depending on your product, you may be very clear that you’re simply going to target a specific category of store. However some products will appeal to several categories. For Instance, SoYoung’s bags have been sold through gift shops, baby stores, kids gear stores and natural grocers, among others. Simply make an exhaustive list of the possibilities based on your current knowledge and best guesses. Determine the top 1 or 2 categories that you will target. To find your category focus, I suggest using a multi-attribute model spreadsheet. This approach allows you to apply a disciplined approach to choosing your initial target category. How to use the Spreadsheet Plug in the categories you are considering down the left hand “LEAD” column (replace the title “Lead 1” etc.) Determine the 3-4 criteria you feel are most relevant to creating an optimal environment for presenting and selling your products. Criteria  examples include: Price Sensitivity, Similar products, Alignment with core audience. Plug them into the Attribute row (replace the title “Criteria 1” etc) Assign a weight to each criteria as it relates to your decision. The total weights you assign amongst the various criteria should add up to 100 Rank each lead category out of 10 as it applies to the specific criteria. This will give you a total score in the far right hand column >>Download the resource pack, including the Multi Attribute Model Spreadsheet STEP TWO:Determine your Top Retail Targets The retailers that carry your products reflect strongly on what kind of brand you are, so be intentional about who you target when selling wholesale to retailers. In this step you will determine the key criteria that you will use to target specific retailers. For instance, SoYoung, while not a luxury brand, does price its products at a premium, so discount stores are not a good fit for us. Again, focus is the key to remaining productive. Once again use the multi attribute model to determine which retailers you will focus on. How to use the Spreadsheet Plug in the retailers you are considering down the left hand LEADS column. Determine the 3-4 criteria you feel are most relevant to creating an optimal environment for presenting and selling your products. Criteria examples include: Eco-friendliness, Urban Locations, Boutique feel etc. Plug them into the Criteria row. The total weights you assign amongst the various criteria should add up to 100 Rank each lead category out of 10 as it applies to the specific criteria. This will give you a total score in the far right hand column   STEP THREE:Determine the Specific Buyer for your Category This is by far the most time-consuming aspect of the process of selling wholesale to retailers. There are companies that offer lists of specific roles that you can purchase, but they’re expensive and I have found that often they are out of date or missing key data. To compound the issue, many buyers go out of their way to maintain a low profile online so that they are not inundated with inquiries. Getting a nameI will generally start with a LinkedIn search of the company name and review the names of key personnel looking for anyone that is a buyer or “category manager”. I will then cross reference results with a site calledData.com, which is run by Salesforce. If you find a relevant name and title on LinkedIn, check the side column entitled “People also searched for”. Getting their email addressOnce you have a name, you can guess the target’s email address based on another address from the same company, since most companies follow a standard structure for email addresses. It’s not always easy to find another address however.The best resources I’ve found are press releases – since the press contact will often provide a personal email address and company blog posts. If I’m really desperate I may use a credit up on data.com to get any email address from the company.   STEP FOUR:Build a Buyer Profile If it is a high-value target, such as a chainstore, I would suggest going a step further once you have determined who your exact buyer is. Check out their social media profiles – especially ones like Pinterest and Instagram where they may be sharing personal tastes. You don’t want to let on that you have been browsing their personal profiles, but you may get some additional insight into their likes and preferences that you can use to your advantage in your sales pitch. If you are determined to get your products into a specific national chain you may even want to go a step further in building an organizational map. This means building a diagram of all the people who report to that buyer or may have some influence over the decision to carry your products. You can then target each of the influencers with emails tin a multi pronged attack.   STEP FIVE:Prepare sales materials Buyers are constantly reviewing products and don’t have a lot of time. When selling wholesale to retailers, you need to invest your time in creating a few succinct but powerful pieces that will quickly convey your product’s value and appeal. There are three main pieces you will need to prepare: Email templates Your initial outreach email should be short and to the point. Provide an introductory paragraph that points to the sales sheet, which you will attach, and a brief list of bullet points about the product’s selling points. I’ve found that it’s best not to over sell the product at this stage. You are really just looking for their opinion as to whether they have any interest and see a fit for their retail environment.You can download the exact template we use at SoYoung at the link below. >>Download a free email template example Sales Sheet The sales sheet is a one page PDF that provides everything a buyer might need to make an initial decision as to whether he or she might be interested in your product(s). Keeping it to one page will insure you focus your message so that the buyer can clearly understand your product and make a quick initial assessment. Any ambiguity about what your product is or why it’s relevant will make a poor first impression and likely just cause them to ignore your products. What your sales sheet should include: Your logo, product name and tagline high quality photos of your product including packaging (if relevant) and in-store presentation Wholesale pricing and MSRP 4-5 Bullet points outlining major selling points >>Download a free sales sheet example Pitch Presentation While you won’t always need it, you should have a more in-depth pitch presentation prepared. This can be formatted as a slideshow that can be presented either in person or remotely, once a buyer has expressed some interest. It should be short – less than 10 minutes – but fill in some of the details that you did not have space for in your sales sheets. Your pitch presentation should include: 8-10 Slides Product Features Awards,endorsements or notable users/fans Pricing Details Press coverage Current retailers and notable sales figures Your Target Audience Company History >>Download an example of a pitch presentation STEP SIX:Initial Outreach At this point you should have a good idea of who you are targeting and have all of your sales materials prepared. In some cases, your initial interactions with your target will reveal that they are not actually the buyer for your category. Ideally they will point you in the right direction, but if not you may have to go back and do some more research. Before you begin your outreach in earnest, you should have some system in place for tracking your sales efforts. A CRM (customer relations management) system is great because it allows you to set notifications and see all past correspondence with a lead in context, so you know exactly where your progress with that person is at. We use Base CRM – but there are plenty of others out there. If you don’t have a CRM yet, you can just track your efforts in a spreadsheet. However I strongly suggest you at least add some software to your email client that allows you to track whether your email has been opened by a target, as this will allow you to better determine follow up efforts. What to expect after sending an email.I have received responses from buyers based on a single email when selling wholesale to retailers, however this is the exception rather than the rule. If you’ve used the subject line I suggest in the provided email template, you will likely at least prick their interest. I find that about 50%-60% of my emails get opened. If you see that an email hasn’t been opened a few days after sending it, I would suggest simply resending it again. If you see that an email has been opened, move on to the phone call follow-up with the buyer.   STEP SEVEN:Phone Follow-up with the Buyer Once you see that an email has been opened, or if you’ve sent several emails that have not been opened, call the buyer. This can seem intimidating at first but, as long as you are prepared with a simple script, it is a simple and straightforward process. Your purpose here is simply to follow-up on your email until you get a response.   If you get voicemail You’ll want to keep trying until you get the buyer in person, however it doesn’t hurt to leave a short voicemail drawing attention to your email and politely requesting a response. Use the provided script to insure your message is succinct and to the point. If the buyer has not yet read your email, the voicemail may be what prompts them to look for it in their inbox. At the very least, a voicemail, if heard, puts you on their radar and lets them know that you are serious about getting a response. If you get the buyer in person Again, have your script in hand and point them to your email. This is not the time to be doing a hard sell. Your goal is simply to get a response and gage whether there is any interest on their part. Stick to the script and, if there is a moment of awkward silence while they search for your email or ponder a response, DON’T make the mistake of filling it with your nervous chatter. You’ll likely just be giving them a reason to say no. If you get any response OTHER than a firm “No” Ask the buyer if you could schedule a short 10 minute meeting in which to give them a few more details about your product. If you are able meet in person that is ideal, however if the buyer is in another city or country, this may be unfeasible. I have done successful presentations over the phone with a simple screen share. Suggest a definite time and see if you can get it booked then and there. Sometimes the buyer will request a sample at this stage, or even a small test order. This is great progress but even if they request a sample, I would still try to get a few minutes of their time to  give them your full pitch. >>Download a free phone sales followup script STEP EIGHT:Pitch to Buyer I have made sales without doing this step, particularly for smaller chains. However if the buyer is interested but not yet decided, this is your opportunity to make your product(s) seem like a no-brainer for him or her to at least try out. Practice, Practice, Practice Before your meeting, go through your presentation as many times as you need to to insure you have it down cold. I would suggest making your slides as visual as possible rather than just a number of bullet points that you’re reading off the page. You should memorize exactly what you are going to say, while using the images as supporting material. Plan what you want the next step to be Don’t make the mistake of ending the pitch by asking what they thought. You should end by asking if they would be willing to try a test order. If they have any hesitancy, the next best outcome is offer to see if they will review a sample. It may also be that they are interested but they don’t know how to work the products in yet or the timing is off. In that case, ask if you can follow up with them.   STEP NINE:Follow-up to Completion If you get anything short of an order or test order, you should continue to follow up with the buyer every week or two. I’ll usually do 2 or three emails to every phone call follow-up. Remember that buyers are busy, so they aren’t necessarily ignoring you because they don’t like your product. They may be undecided or have other priorities to deal with. I have had sales that took a year or longer to come to fruition. You simply have to keep politely persisting until someone gives you a firm no or you get a first order. Again, a CRM will help you keep track of all your leads and allow you to schedule reminder tasks around follow-up activities. If you get a NoGetting a No is much better than not getting a response at all. It means that the buyer has seriously considered your product. Don’t miss the opportunity to get inside the buyers head to understand why they passed on your product. Maybe it’s just not a fit for their store and you’re targeting the wrong category. Maybe they have some valuable feedback on how to better position or even redesign your product. Make sure you ask why they passed on your product in a polite and endearing way – be sure not to appear defensive.   Conclusion Those that are most successful at selling wholesale to retailers play the long game of consistent efforts. Very rarely are you going to pick up the phone or send an email and get an immediate response. You have to slowly and methodically persist over time with follow-up after follow-up until people realize that you are not going to go away. Selling wholesale to retailers is not glamorous, and it can be intimidating to reach out to total strangers, but if you do this on a regular basis you will be ahead of 90% of the pack. Still have some questions about selling wholesale to retailers? Leave a comment below!


12 May 2016

Rank #7

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04: How to Manufacture your Products in China with Sam Miller of the East Asia Co.

Sam Miller first moved to Shanghai in the early 90’s to teach at the university there. He then went on to manage the office of a major American home textiles company. He has since worked in the ceramics, gifts and furniture industries offering his experience in sourcing, product development, management and logistics. He currently works with a variety of small business to teach them how to manufacture products in China and help them secure and manage their manufacturing relationships. He blogs frequently about the topic ofhow to manufacture products in China on his website www.theeastasiaco.comWhy should you manufacture products in China?I love the idea of purchasing products that are made here in North America, and if your products and business model allow you to do that, there are some big advantages from both a branding and logistics perspective. But the reality is, most of us will not purchase products unless they also meet our price expectations - and price expectations today are largely determined by global markets. I'm not going to get it into the political and moral implications of outsourcing your products to a country like China. But I will say that depending on your product category, and your competitive set, it may be your only choice to have your products manufactured in a cost competitive manner.  I asked Sam about this and he describes how many products can no longer be manufactured cost effectively in North America because most of the infrastructure and expertise has moved overseas, where labour is much cheaper. 


1 Mar 2016

Rank #8

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05: How to build your business through trade shows with Tim Patterson of Trade Shoe Guy Exhibits

In this week’s podcast I discuss how to get the most out of your trade show marketing with TIm Patterson. Tim is the head of Trade Show Guy Exhibits where he helps clients excel at trade show marketing. Tim also runs a blog, www.tradeshowguyblog.com   and has authored a book called Trade Show Success that’s a great resource for small to medium sized businesses looking to take their trade show marketing to the next level. You can download the book for free at http://www.tradeshowsuccessbook.com/ Trade shows can be an expensive proposition for a young business, and I can tell you from experience that they have been hit and miss for us. With all the social media and other options for instant communication i asked Tim why a brand with limited resources should go to the expense and trouble of attending trade shows? Tim points out that because of the prevalence of electronic communication in business relationships, face to face meetings are more powerful than ever. Also, because buyers are there specifically to source new products, trade shows allow brands to reach markets that they never could on their own.  Another benefit of doing trade shows is just the opportunity to see what's going on in the market  and how you measure up to your competition So I mentioned that not every trade show has been a great experience for us. I asked Tim how to  determine what shows are going to be a good fit for you rather than a waste of time? Tim recommends simply walking a show as an attendee and speaking with other presenters before committing to purchase a booth. Checking the show’s site for signs that your competition is attending is another good strategy for gauging a show’s fit. SoYoung continue to attend select trade shows and part of the reason that we do  is that we’ve gotten a lot better at doing them - in fact tradeshows have actually lead to some amazing connections that I’m pretty sure sure we could not have made otherwise.   Tim emphasizes that lack of proper planning is the biggest mistake people make around tradeshows - you can't just show up and expect to have a great experience. In the end the progress we’ve made mostly come down to us spending a lot more time planning and preparing in advance for the trade show experience. We now schedule weekly trade show meetings in the six to eight weeks leading up to a major event, where we discuss all the details of the show. This includes the marketing materials we need to get together, details of the marketing packages offered through the show organizers and logistical details of getting all of our items there on time.Mistakes still happen, but generally we’re able to make much better use of our time at the show. Another aspect we’ve improved is the design of our booth itself. Last year we invested a significant amount of money in upgrading our booth and we used Tim as a consultant. Tim points out that for an unknown brand it may be better to emphasize your product or tagline rather than your logo and brand. Ultimately you want to be sure that whatever messaging you’re using is attracting the right customers and disqualifying attendees who are not a fit for your brand. Another point Tim makes is around the importance of having representatives of your brand in the booth who have been properly trained in both your key messaging and how to interact with customers in a trade show setting. If necessary, consider hiring trainers who specialize in trade show selling for your staff. The main purpose of attending any trade show is to generate sales and leads for your business. While it may seem fairly  obvious, but in the beginning we really didn’t do a very good job of following up on the leads we met at trade shows, so we were wasting a huge part of the value of attending. Apparently we are not alone! In fact tim claims that studies show that 7-8 out of 10 leads is never followed up on. I can confidently say that we are now on top of our follow up. Every lead is entered into our CRM with notes from the show. Because I’m not typically at the show but do most of the follow up, we’ve trained our staff to get as much information as possible so I know exactly what was discussed  and can personalize my outreach message. I also begin following up within 48 hours of the show while the memory is fresh and we continue following up until we get a firm yes or no. But having a clearly defined process is key. SO, if you haven;t yet attended a tradeshow but are considering them as a way to grow your sales, i hope this has helped clarify why tradeshows are important. If you’ve already attended some tradeshows you probably got some nuggets that you can apply to your next exoereince. Like most things in this business, we’ve increased our returns from tradshows over time as we’ve attended more shows and gotten better at  our process. If you’d like to learn more about tradeshow marketing you can visits Tim Patterson’s blog at http://www.tradeshowguyblog.com/ And again, Tim has also made his book availble for free to our podcast listeners - you can go to http://www.tradeshowsuccessbook.com/


11 Mar 2016

Rank #9

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13: How to Create Stellar Product Videos on the Cheap

Budget for 5 videos: Professional Voiceovers: $200 We hired a premium voiceover artist. There were others out there that were much less expensive that probably would have done a comparable job. Background Music: $50 – through premiumbeat.com Equipment and Software: Sony A6000 Camera: Aprox $600 – shoots great stills and video, and includes autofocus in video mode Amazon Tripod: $30 Final Cut X Video Editing Software: $300. You could easily use iMovie instead, free if you own a Mac. There are plenty of windows video software options, many for less than $100.   The process we used to create our product videos One: Write your Script The first task is creating the script that will form the voiceover of your video. You should cover all the distinguishing features of the products and your brand. If possible you should aim to keep your video less than 60 seconds in length as attention spans on the web are short! This works out to about 100 – 150 words. As you’re crafting  the script, focus on demonstrable benefits and facts. Avoid superlatives,  (“amazing” “incredible”, premiere”) as they tend to undermine credibility when coming from the brand or manufacturer. Be conscious of how the script will flow by picturing the accompanying shots. Order the descriptions of features appropriately to any scene you might shoot.   Two: Record your Voiceover I would suggest checking out a service like https://www.fiverr.com, where you can preview a number of voiceover artists and choose the one you feel is best suited to your brand. A pro will generally cost more than $5 but will still be a relative bargain. They should provide you with a fully edited, professionally recorded file which can be inserted directly into your video.   Three: Plan your Shoot There are three tasks associated with the planning phases List of ShotsYou should be able to make a list of shots based on the video script, since you are essentially just shooting a quick demonstration of each of the product’s features. Location ScoutYou may already have a setting in mind, but if you don’t, scout out a few potential locations and make sure they have everything you need to support your shoot, including appropriate space, backgrounds and light (natural light is best). Note where you might place the camera in each location and do a general plan of your shots. List of Props, People, and Wardrobe (if applicable)For Soyoung this meant deciding what items we would show being put into the bags in order to demonstrate their carrying capacity. There were some shots of people wearing the products also but we were able to shoot these on the tail end of a photo shoot.   Four: Shoot your Clips If you want to elevate your video to the next level, I would strongly suggest shooting each major scene from at least two angles. For instance, we shot Catherine packing each bag from the side and the top, which allowed us to cut the shot in the middle of a movement, giving the video a more professional look. You will need to be aware of consistency between the two shots by rehearse the series of movements being performed. Lighting is the other thing you will have to check. If you can find a space with natural light that is ideal. If not, you may want to bring a floodlight that can be pointed at the shot. If using natural light you will again have to keep an eye on consistency. If the light changes you may have to reshoot previous scenes. Finally, review all of your shots on a computer before you wind up the shoot to insure you have the shots and quality you need. It’s a lot easier to redo a scene.   Five: Create your Edit This is potentially the most time-intensive part of the process. However, if you’ve planned your shoot well it should be fairly straightforward. Once you get the hang of it, editing is a lot of fun, so consider this a great opportunity to learn a cool new skill. If you are on a mac, iMovie is perfectly adequate for editing your video and is bundled free with your system software. If you are on a PC there are a number of inexpensive options available. Here is a list of video editing applications under $100 http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-video-editing-software,review-2167.html I won’t get into the basics of using video editing software as there are many tutorials out there, including this one for imovie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKu5p4e4CbY ) However I will give you some tips on the general workflow we used specifically for editing a product video: Start by importing the voiceover recording, and use this to define your timeline.  This will provide the guide for all your edits. Next import all of the clips associated with your video assemble them on the timeline so that they roughly correspond with the voiceover Tweak each of the individual shots so that they begin to form a polished edit Time each cut to fall on a the first word of the voiceover describing the specific shot, so that the image is clearly aligned with the commentary If you have some longer shots/scenes, combine 2 angles to give the video more depth. Try to match the cut to a movement within the scene to create consistency Once I have a rough edit, I usually will put it aside for a while and then come back with a fresh perspective before making a few final tweaks.   Six: Add Background Music Background music will add mood and polish to your video, tying it all together. There are a huge number of stock music providers online. Feel free to do your own web search, but the one I use most frequently iswww.premiumbeat.com . It has a great search function, allowing you to search by genre and mood. Tracks are typically about $50. I like to test the track using the Premiumbeats.com preview player while playing my edited video in a separate window. You can adjust the volume of the track and get a pretty good idea of how the final piece will feel.   Seven: Upload the Video to your Video Hosting Service Uploading your videos to Youtube is a no-brainer because it is the world’s second largest search engine potentially sending new traffic to your site. Some hints for Youtube: Include a link to your product page in the video description to insure viewers can find you Use your main keywords in the product title, description and tags to insure your videos appear in relevant youtube search results Consider adding subtitles to your video for those watching with their volume off. Youtube makes this easy using their advanced editor. You should already have your entire script typed out, which you can upload and tweak to match the timing of the video The down side of embedding a Youtube video on your site is that, at the end of the video, it will prompt visitors to watch other videos on Youtube’s platform – potentially distracting them from the sale. While we do upload our videos to YouTube, the videos on our product pages are actually hosted on a platform called www.wistia.com. It is a paid service, but there is a free tier for up to 5 videos.   Eight: Embed the Videos on your Product Pages You can place the videos anywhere on your site, however I would suggest also having them on the product page,  since that will typically be where the visitor will make their buying decision. If you are using Shopify, there is a video embed button in the editor that allows you to easily add a pop up video. However, nearly every platform allows for easy embedding of video.   Conclusion Product videos are a valuable tool to have in your marketing arsenal. In addition to enhancing sales on your own site, product videos can be shared on many other platforms and via your retailers to help you inform new audiences about the benefits of your products. Finally, the process of creating your own product videos can be very cost effective if you are willing to take it on yourself.


20 Jul 2016

Rank #10