April 2, 2020
Ep. 24 – Growing Your Brand And Building Community – With Tracey Wallace

Ep. 24 – Growing Your Brand And Building Community – With Tracey Wallace

My goal is to not have people actually land
on my homepage. I want people to land on those product pages because they’re a lot closer
to checkout when they’re there than they are when they’re landing on my homepage. Welcome to Honest eCommerce where we are dedicated
to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I’m your host, Chase Clymer And I’m your host, Annette Grant. And we believe running an online business
does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. If you’re struggling to scale your sales,
Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us. visit electriceye.io/connect
to learn more. And let’s get on with the show. On this episode of honest eCommerce, we welcome
Tracey Wallace, the founder, and CEO of Doris Sleep, a sustainable bed pillow company. Hi, everybody, welcome back to Honest eCommerce.
I’m sitting here next to Annette Grant in Columbus, Ohio. And today we welcome another
founder to the show, Tracey Wallace coming to us from awesome, weird, Austin, Texas.
Welcome to the show, Tracey. Hi, thank you so much for having me. Awesome. So you’ve got a really unique journey.
So you went from BigCommerce and then pivoted out from there to now owning your own brand
and being the CEO and founder of Doris Sleep. So, I’m sure that there was a big process
there, but kind of walk us through that journey. Sure. So I worked over at BigCommerce and
really in the technology industry… I worked in the technology industry for 10 years over
at BigCommerce for about 4 and a half of that and I was their global editor-in-chief. So
(I was) running all content. Website content, case study content, blog content, white paper
content. If there was a word or video, I probably had something if not almost everything to
do with it. And a lot of the reason why I really ever
took the job, I guess, four and a half years ago was… My grandfather started a business
back in 1956. He had come back from the war and college and was –at least as the lore
goes that I’m told– he was walking down a backstreet of East Texas, found an old broken
down cotton gin, and went back with his pickup truck later, picked it up, fixed it up and
started a company. Today that cotton company still exists. It’s also expanded to a pillow
company. And it is just the family business that I’ve
grown up on. I mean, it’s paid for my college, for the roof over my head. It’s given my mom
and my aunts and my brother and my cousins all jobs. It was my first job working out
in the very hot Texas heat putting cotton through a picker which was not fun, but very
character building. (laughs) Which is great. So I kind of always wanted to, one start my
own thing but 2, I wanted to educate other people on how to build something that wasn’t
just a one-hit-wonder. Something that would actually build a legacy for them that would
have their granddaughter in the future telling an old lore story that may or may not be as
romantic as I might make it sound. And a big part of that was really diving into
the platform, really educating people on exactly how to use it, as well as how not to fall
for some “get-rich-quick” schemes, essentially how to really build real brands. And about
three and a half years into that process. I was like, “Alright. I need to stop telling
people how to do this.” I was very honest with people. I’ve spoken
to a lot of events, written a bunch of books, and I was very honest about, “Hey, I don’t
do this. This is not my world. I don’t do this. I just have seen their view and talk
to the people who do.” So, all of my advice, everything that I’m
talking to you about comes to you through the lens of –these are the most helpful tips
that I’ve curated by talking to and interviewing– people who are making more than 10 million
in annual revenue through an online store. And a lot of people were typically really
pulling chill with that. And for me, I just wanted to become a practitioner. That’s great. So wait, weren’t those 10 million-plus
dropshippers you interviewed? (laughs) Yeah, Chase and I talked about that a lot on the
show. Yeah, You mentioned a few things there. Building
a real company, building an actual brand and this “being honest” about it. I think anytime
people put on a front and try to present their business as something bigger than it is. You
can almost see right through it. Right. Right. Well, I mean, it’s being honest
about it. It’s also being honest about how hard it is. So when I first joined BigCommerce,
I found that a lot of the educational material out there for business owners or startups
–small business owners– trying to start online stores was really gimmicky. Mm-hmm. And it wasn’t super honest about truly how
hard it is. There are peaks and there are valleys. And there’s probably a whole lot
more valleys and there are peaks. And so I wanted to be really clear with the folks that
I was writing blog content for or books for that “Hey, there will be times that you want
to give up. Listen to these people who have gone through
it. Here’s how you get your finances in order. Here’s how not to be wooed by the next big
Facebook release of something or whatever it might be…” (I’m) Really, really trying
to help people understand –one or both- – that this is hard and it’s rewarding. You are one of my favorite guests so far. (laughs) Thank you so much. Because alright. I’m going
to be honest now, too. That’s probably my least favorite thing about Shopify. Some of…
They don’t do it purposely or they’d get sued. But there is an almost an underbelly of get-rich-quick
schemes on the internet where people find the platform, think that they’re going to
be an internet millionaire, put $5 behind Facebook ads to make 5 million… I hate that. It’s untrue and it produces this weird collection
of almost like, “I’ll sell you a get-rich-quick scheme course to help you get rich by selling
courses of other get-rich-quick schemes.” I hate it. No, I mean… Man, I get so irritated every
time I see people launch online courses about like “How To Do It: The XYZ thing I did to
get to the point where I am now making 1 million a year.” And I’m like, “Oh my god! You are
the like .00001% of people that that’s ever going to work for. And on top of that, the reason it worked for
you — the person who’s creating the course– is because you were the only one that was
doing it. Now if you have 1000/2000/5000 other people going and doing that exact same thing,
it’s not going to work for them the way that it worked for you and it’s a waste of your
money.” Yeah. And just to double down on that. Like,
“This is how it worked for me.” Especially with Facebook ads. They’re like, I made $250,000
off this $5,000 ad.” And you’re like, “That’s a crazy return!” Like, “Yeah, but that’s also
probably the thousandth iteration of that ad when they finally hit that unicorn.” No
one talks about all the ones they did before that. Right! Right! Right! Or how much money they
lost. For instance, so I ran my first Facebook ad in January. And this is somebody… Again,
I’ve been writing about everything eCommerce for a very long time. Researching it, interviewing
people. Technically, I should know how to do this. (laughs) And I launched Facebook
ads and then forgot to turn them off… Oh no… Oh no. Yeah! And I ended up spending an additional
$500 that generated absolutely nothing –which I started the business late December so that
early on– that’s a lot of money to be throwing at something that you are getting zero return
on. And I think that is a much more common story
for people than the “I put money behind a Facebook ad it’s been incredibly successful.”
Also though, as of 2019 even 2018, there really was not… In 2016… Maybe 2015 and 2016
and 2017, it was a whole lot more likely that you could put money behind a Facebook ad and
see huge amounts of results versus now because everybody’s doing it. It’s that same concept as the course that
I was just talking about. Back then –2015-2016– not that many people were putting money behind
Facebook ads and as a result, the people who were putting money there truly could become
millionaires. But we’ve passed that point. That’s just not the case anymore. Now you
need to go out and find the other channels that work. Absolutely. So let’s talk about you getting
in this wild, wild world of eCommerce. Especially for me, I’m going to say it. I feel like the
market… That the product that you chose is extremely saturated, and probably difficult
sales. So talk to us about deciding on the brand that you’re running now and that transition
from a full-time employee to entrepreneur. Sure. So yeah, it’s funny. I was a full-time
employee when I launched Doris Sleep –Which Doris Sleep is a sustainable bed pillow company.–
I was a full-time employee. I was also in the midst of planning my wedding, which happened
right before I launched the store and then also in the midst of selling a condo and buying
a home. I truly lost my mind, I think, the end of 2018. I don’t know why I did all those
things at once. But I did and it turned out very well, I think.
But yeah, so I sell bed pillows online. The reason why I chose that product and that category
may be different from a lot of the folks listening. As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather started
a cotton company which is now a cotton pillow company. It’s a manufacturing company. And
I knew I wanted to sell what they were making. Now they don’t just make sustainable bed pillows,
but I wanted to sell those. So I went my family, talk to them about it, and I became an official
customer of my own family as manufacturing company because I’m lucky enough to have that
connection, I suppose, and show specifically the sustainable bed pillows. So sustainable, what I mean by that is it
is recycled plastic bottle fiber. All of it made them produced in the US. So it’s actually
plastic bottle fiber/plastic bottles that have been diverted from landfills in the United
States. They are then taken over to these two different warehouses in the Carolinas,
they turn it into some super soft fiber for us, and then they ship it over to my family’s
warehouse where they blow the pillows to the specifications that I’ve asked them to and
then I ship them out. So for me, choosing those pillows are choosing
the pillows really wasn’t a super strategic, “Okay. I’m going to double-down. I’m going
to figure out what’s trending, what product to go after, and then find a manufacturer.”
Instead, no. I had a manufacturer and then I chose products out of the lines that they
were offering. So that’s really how I got started there.
The name Doris is my grandmother’s name.The brand is red because she had red hair. The
manufacturing companies are named after my grandfather. But hey, why not go in this direction? Katana Ad
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first three months of a paid subscription, Check out Katana today. I have a question about something that you
went over there. Do you actually ship the product out? You said you ship it but I don’t
know if that’s you or not? Well, so right now I’m using a 3PL called
ShipBob. Okay. They start in Dallas. So we’ll ship them from
the Texas warehouse that my family owns up to the 3PL. Though I have been having more
and more conversations with my brother and my family, really talking to them more and
really educating them on the eCommerce space in general. Because man, if I can save the freight from
that warehouse to another warehouse and then those people shipping it out, that would be
amazing. But talking to my family about “Hey, you guys. You could charge me for that extra
floor space if you wanted to. My 3PL is already doing that. And I save money on the shipping
as long as you guys ship out stuff every day when it comes in.” And they already have folks
that, one that they do that for. So, as a result, they also have UPS and everybody
else coming to them. So I’m hoping that as soon as the inventory runs out there –which
might have like 40 or more pillows there so it shouldn’t be too long now– I can shift
it on over to the family warehouse. Awesome. No, that’s good. And did you start
with a third party logistics from the launch of your product? I did. I did. Well, yes. So for a lot of reasons.
One, I didn’t want to pick-pack-ship the products myself, their pillows. I truly live in a tiny
house in Austin, Texas, so I don’t have anywhere to put those things. And my family was telling me that they couldn’t
ship one-off, their manufacturing company. They’re like, “We do bulk.” I’m like, “Oh,
let’s talk more about this.” And that conversation is going much better. But at the time, they’re
like, “Absolutely not.” And then on top of that, my former boss over
at BigCommerce had recently moved over to ShipBob. He’s their CMO over there. I talked
to him –while he was at BigCommerce– a lot about launching this company. He was actually really helpful and being like,
“Dude, you keep talking about this. I just plain don’t believe you’re going to do it.”
And I was like, “Alright. (I’m) Proving you wrong.” Which is really how it kind of got
started. So he moved over to ShipBob and I just chatted
with him. He got me hooked up with some of the great folks over there and now I just
know their teams really well. And they’re great people, so I’m excited to work with
them. Awesome. So this is a really fresh new journey,
right? Launching late last year… You are business now, right? (laughs) Yes. I’m a business now. (laughs) t
(laughs) All right, let’s be honest with people. What’s
the biggest mistake you’ve made this year? I mean, that Facebook ad was pretty bad. And
then I did it again about two months later because I probably –like everybody else listening–
you do get wooed and convinced by all the little videos you see online or the articles
you run across about. “Okay, cool. Actually, maybe if I do target this a little bit better”
or I don’t know, whatever you think. “Maybe my Facebook ads would work better.” For me, I have –as a result of overspending
about $1000 on Facebook ads but turned into absolutely nothing– pulled completely out
of Facebook and I’m focusing really on community building, doing partnerships with a bunch
of folks. Really some more old school tactics because it’s not as saturated. So putting out fires, dropping them off at
apartment places. Kind of what you were speaking to earlier in terms of the pillow market being
supersaturated. How do you stand out? For me a big part of the standing out is really
focusing my targeting on the folks in Texas –at least for right now– and putting some
Texas branding around it –at least in print and flyers and things that I’m getting out
there and some of the partnerships that I’m doing.– Even looking at billboards. Because you can buy a billboard on I10, which
is one of the most trafficked highways in the United States. You can buy a billboard
on I10, right outside of Beaumont, Texas, which is my hometown, –which Beaumont is
right on the border of Texas and Louisiana, so you can buy it where people are coming
in from Louisiana driving into Texas.– I can get a billboard there, you guys, for $1000
a month –which is crazy because I sort of overspend on Facebook… (laughs) Right. …and it can say, “Welcome to the softer
side of Texas!” and have my logo up there. And now I have a social media campaign that
I can run and whatever. And even… Just test that out. –How much traffic is that actually
driving.– My wife, currently, is the big blocker there. She’s like, “Please do not
spend $1,000 on a billboard in Nowhere, Texas.” and I’m like, “Okay. Yeah.” (laughs) I’m going to say, I’m going to be on your
side and say the story itself, the content that you could produce around the billboard
would be amazing. Right? It’s cool! (laughs) Yeah. And I’m going to say you’re the first
person on our honest eCommerce podcast that said anything about a billboard. So we thank
you for that. No. I mean, I think billboards are really
important especially because so many people are focusing and doubling down really hard
on paid acquisition channels. –I mean, billboards are a paid acquisition channel as well– But
Facebook paid acquisition, man, it’s just so saturated there. It’s so hard, I think, for brands that aren’t
in a highly venture-backed (business). I’ve even had venture folks or venture investors
come to me asking if they can invest? And I’m like, “No, not yet. I don’t want the money
right now. I want to do this my way.” I also don’t want to give up any ownership which
is a big part of it as well. But so many brands out there are venture-backed. On top of that, a lot of the legacy brands
are really getting into the game. All of those people can outspend you every second. It’s
not even… It’s just… You don’t have that scale. I don’t have that scale. Maybe y’all
do. So as a result, I’m trying to figure out, “Okay, where aren’t they spending money?”
I was chatting with a guy here in Austin not too long ago who was super influential and
helpful in getting our voices to the level and place that it’s at now. And I was telling
him my billboard idea. He’s also for it. He was giving me an example that here in Austin,
one of the first things that Outdoor Voices did –Outdoor Voices was located in New York
City. Then they moved their headquarters down to Austin, Texas– one of the first things
I did is, there’s this old rundown building on the side of MoPac –which is a busy, big
highway here in Austin– that was right next to the lake and the trail –where people go
running and biking and all of that jazz– there’s this old, rundown building that –happened
to have attached to it– a billboard that was clearly viewable as you’re going down
that highway. And he said one of the first things they did
was, they bought that building, they painted it blue and now they own that billboard and
they can put anything up there that they want. And me and my wife are riding our bikes the
other day and we rode by it and she was like, “Honey, I didn’t know Outdoor Voices had this
year. This is so cool. Dadada.” And I’m like, “That’s what every single person driving by
this, thinks!” And he was like, “That billboard. Clearly,
it’s hard to 100% attributed to it but it was so influential. Making sure that Austinites
knew that we were here and that we were doubling down on the city.” And I’m like, “Man, billboards
work.” Yes, that’s an interesting story. Everybody
check out Outdoor Voices if you haven’t. They are an amazing brand that’s grown tremendously,
very fast. So let’s chat about –because I know our listeners and myself included– Let’s
talk about BigCommerce. I’m Shopify for life, but I need to know what
else is out there. So talk to us about BigCommerce and what you think. Obviously, you worked
for them. So you had some familiarity. But talk to us about the pluses there that people
might be interested in. Sure. So I think some of the best… So typically,
I’ve gone to a lot of shows. I’ve talked to a bunch of Shopify folks. Talk to people who
have been on Shopify but switched to BigCommerce, BigCommerce to Shopify, and so on… Whatever. Almost every single person I talked to about
their eCommerce platform, compares it to marriage and they’re like, “There are really good days
and there are really bad days.” And it’s part of it. That said, I typically begin by asking
people what products they’re selling as well as what their familiarity is with eCommerce. Because what I find is that folks who are
a lot newer to eCommerce and don’t have any technical eCommerce experience or are only
selling a few products, typically like and do better on Shopify. And Shopify is a lot
easier to get up and running and started. I mean, you sign up, and you can immediately
begin processing payments. The way that they just have the setup done, you’re in, you’re
using Shopify pay, right? BigCommerce isn’t like that and BigCommerce
wasn’t built for that. BigCommerce, their based target audience or the folks that they
market to are folks who are already making at least $100K in annual online sales. And
that’s still pretty low. But they’re really looking for the folks who are making at least
a million. And that’s because that’s when the platforms really going to be able to work
incredibly well for you. Because unlike Shopify, where Shopify boxes
you into… Shopify is just a very opinionated platform. And that’s great if you’re not incredibly
familiar or if you don’t have an opinion. Like, “Yeah. Sure. I’ll use Shopify Pay. Whatever.” Large brands do not want to necessarily use
Shopify Pay, they want to use whatever payment system they want, or they want to be able
to build something off of API’s or they need those API’s to move incredibly quickly
because they have some really old legacy ERP system that they need to pull information
in and out of almost real-time. There’s just are the things that you can’t do on the Shopify
side. For me, I guess, other than eCommerce experience,
I only have a few products. So that, I guess, would have put me in the Shopify camp. But
a big reason why I went with BigCommerce was for the SEO capabilities. I just didn’t want
that splash collections in my URL structure. My background’s in content marketing and SEO.
A big part of my strategy is content marketing and SEO, which means I need to be able to
get in and mess with my robots.txt in order to make sure everything looks the way that
I want it to. And I can’t do that over on Shopify and I can over on BigCommerce. In fact, you asked what one of my biggest
mistakes was –and I didn’t know this necessarily at the time– but I do very much regret looking
back launching on the BigCommerce platform rather than just using the BigCommerce Checkout
I would have… If I could redo it, –and honestly, I’d imagine that maybe the end of
this year or beginning of next– I’ll move over to a WordPress presentation layer and
use BigCommerce for WordPress as my checkout. And again, for me, it is an SEO play. Content
marketing and SEO play there. So I’ll let everyone know. Before I was all
gung ho about Shopify, I actually was a WordPress guy. (giggles) And I built a lot of WordPress sites and I
miss the WordPress blogging platform so much, compared to Shopify. It’s night and day. But with that being said, I am helping people
sell stuff and Shopify is amazing at that and I understand everything you were saying
about the limitations of Shopify versus BigCommerce. There’s like a thing that I see go around
though a bit. It’s talking about Headless CMS or… Am I saying that right? Yeah! And could you kind of explain that to our
listeners and heck even kind of myself? Annette’s over here, all wide-eyed? She’s like, “Oh,
it’s a term I haven’t heard.” Yeah. Never. Never. Yeah. So headless commerce is what a lot of
people are really banking on right now. BigCommerce is not the only platform to be doubling down
in headless commerce. It’s probably maybe, the only SaaS platform but there are other
players in the game like Elastic Path or Moltin or commercetools. The other one more popular
over in Europe. Headless commerce is essentially the decoupling
of the presentation layer from the actual platform itself. And that is because platforms
like BigCommerce and Shopify aren’t great at the blogging capabilities. They aren’t
fantastic always at the SEO stuff, which is a really terrible way to talk about it as
an expert in SEO over here. (laughs) Anyway, they aren’t necessarily very good
at those things, but a lot of CMS systems are. In fact, that’s what they were built
for. On top of that, CMS systems like WordPress or Drupal or even things like… What is that?
Adobe Creative Experience or… Man, there’s a bunch of them out there. Those platforms are built specifically, not
only for SEO and content marketing, but they’re built for true online experiences. And given
what we are seeing in terms of the rise of acquisition costs through paid social channels,
as well as legacy brands really coming in with their own money, a big part of… A big
kind of piece of the puzzle, that a lot of people are betting on, is you have to provide
a crazy cool online experience. You have to build out a very strong organic
traffic or organic audience acquisition channel, in order to actually be able to afford the
paid acquisition stuff. Because the paid acquisition stuff is just –at this point– it’s rent,
right? You have to pay for it. It’s part of being online. But how do you offset that? How do you continue
to grow your base? A lot of people are really betting on online experiences on that content
marketing side. Content marketing and SEO. And eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce and
Shopify just plain don’t do those things incredibly well, at least to the level of differentiation. They’re really great at getting you up and
running and being able to help check you out. But that checkout functionality, which does
PCI compliance and fraud management and connects with PayPal or Shopify Pay or whatever you
want, that can actually be decoupled and it can be decoupled through API. So, even when I’ve talked about wanting to
use WordPress as my presentation layer, I’m talking about wanting to move to a headless
commerce model, where WordPress is where I send all of my traffic and I’m just plugging
in BigCommerce as the checkout solution, which would use the exact same URL structure. Nobody would know that they’re being taken
to a different platform. What it provides me though, is the PCI compliance, the fraud
management, and the easy payment integration so that I don’t have to go like install a
WooCommerce instance, which is just really painful. Yes, I would strongly recommend not using
WooCommerce. Period. (laughs) Yeah. (laughs) There’s a lot of information
though, y’all. There’s a lot of good content out there on headless commerce. I can send
you guys some links to maybe include with this podcast, but that’s the gist of it. And
you’re really seeing a lot more brands move in that direction. In particular, on the more
legacy brand side. I believe Harvard is doing some stuff with
it, P&G, brands like that. But it’s, One, I guess it’s not really newer technology.
But it’s becoming more and more known. And as we all know, as things become more known
and more used, often the price drops. Which again, I mean, even BigCommerce, building
out an app for WordPress, which gives you that like enterprise eCommerce checkout capability
but with an easy plugin and actually offering a solution other than WooCommerce. –So many
people dislike WooCommerce. (laughs) That’s huge, right? And that’s super, super cost-effective. Definitely
worth checking out, especially if your brand is one that really thinks that content is
first, that content is the most important and that the “sell” is the second part. And honestly, I would encourage as many people
as possible to think of it that way. It’s super important to build community right now
in order to offset those paid acquisition costs. Simplr Ad
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trial at simplr.ai/honest. You mentioned a lot of really, really cool
interesting stuff there. You might want to go back and re-listen to all of that, all
of our listeners there. So you mentioned a lot about content as your
strategy. Let’s get into that. Talk to us about… Well, two things I guess. What is
your… Not like your content strategy. Play by play. What are the things that you considered with
building yours (content strategy)? And then also what should our listeners be thinking
of, if they’re approaching their content strategy for the first time? What are the things they
need to keep in mind? Sure. So in building out the Doris Sleep website,
one, my goal with door sleep is to rank as highly as possible for my three main key products
for their keywords. So that’s “thin pillow”, “bed pillow” and “thick pillow.” In order to do that, I made sure that those
landing –they’re not landing pages– product pages, –which are essentially landing pages–
but I made sure that those product pages are the absolute best pieces of content according
to Google or according to the tools that I have, which I use –MarketMuse, Clearbit,
a rough SEO research in general– I made sure that those product pages have some of the
best information on those topics as possible. So there’s a description. A product description
for sure and price, but then it goes into… There are little graphics for the qualities
of it, it goes into three specific sections about the actual benefits of it, talks about
the benefits of recycled plastic water bottle use, talks about the return policy, has FAQs
on there and then also has like those recurring reviews. There are GIFs on each one showing the actual
compression. What my goal with that page is, one, it’s long, it has a bunch of content
but that’s because Google tends to rank things that are at least 1000 words, higher than
other pieces of content, which likely has something to do with the amount of time that
people actually stay on those pages. Two, my goal is to not have people actually land
on my homepage, I want people to land on those product pages because they’re a lot closer
to checkout when they’re there than they are when they’re landing on my homepage. So on that landing page, on that product page,
I need to explain the product, yes, but I also need to be sure to explain the brand.
So I have parts of the story in there. I have… I re-tell things that were maybe told on the
homepage in there. I have videos on there. All of that is an effort to keep someone on
the page, but also in an effort to make sure that I’m ranking really, really well for those
pages. So right now, –even within the first month
and a half that I launched– my pages are already ranking on page two of Google for
those key terms and I’m a brand new brand. I launched in December and I’m already really
high. The only reason I’m not on page one is my
own dang fault. I just need to go out and get some backlinks, which mostly means doing
some guest blogging on related home sites. I reached out to a few folks, I just actually
need to write those pieces of content right now. I’ve gone through… And because I’m
a writer online, I’ve gotten Doris Sleep added to a bunch of my bio stuff. I have other friends
who are writers. They’ll link over to me sometimes. That said, almost all those links are coming
from technology companies, which is great because they have really high domain ranking
and rating, but it’s… So that’s got me to page two, but I’m sure Google is looking through
all of those links. And they’re like, “Okay, cool. This site’s clearly trusted. Awesome,
awesome, awesome. Top of page two. Top of page two. Weird. Nothing from a home site
is linking to this pillow site.” (laughs) So anyway, I need to go through and get some
links for that, and then that’ll suit up. Other than that, another part of my content
strategy is just continuing to build out my blog content. Right now I have two pieces
up over there. One is a really, really in-depth piece that talks through pillow and mattress
materials. (I’m) Really trying to educate people on sustainable
versus no-sustainable materials. In particular, why foam is so bad because foam is really
the most used product in mattresses and pillows and it’s really, really awful for 600 reasons
that I won’t necessarily go into here. Awesome. That SEO strategy behind that getting
backlinks. That’s really top of mind for me because I’ve been thinking about it for our
agency a lot lately. Right. No, yeah. It’s super important and
it’s hard to get backlinks. One of the best ways to get backlinks is guest blogging. But
what I have found to be the absolute best way to get backlinks is by knowing people.
So a lot of it is truly just networking. Getting to know people was really a big part of my
role over at BigCommerce. Every single week, I would make sure that
I was going and getting coffee with somebody in the industry –that I did not think would
say yes– to going and getting coffee with me. And I go and get coffee and just chat
with them. And then I have this monthly list of about 117 people. All of them I know. All
of them I’ve gotten coffee with. All of them I’ve met personally. All of them I keep up
with. That I email every single month with like, “What’s your number one tip on SEO?
What’s your number one tip on whatever it might be?” And those folks are able to put what their
answers to those questions are. I have on there what websites that might show up on?
And then the best answers get pulled into those websites. And then I let those people
know when that article is published. And it’s just a really good way, at least for me, one,
to stay in touch with all of those people, because a lot of them will message back, “I’m
in Austin. Let’s grab a coffee.” Whatever it is. And my answer, of course, is, “Yes, absolutely.”
And then, two, it’s me just constantly providing value back to my network. Which makes it easy
when I’m like, “Hey, I just launched a business. Can you please go and link this?” And all
of these relevant places and pages on your site answers almost always yes. So if you’re listening and you’re wondering
how to make things incredibly easier for yourself or so much easier for yourself, building a
network is 100% it. Making sure that you are providing as much value to that network as
possible on a regular basis rather than asking for anything and only asking for things when
it’s super important. It’s so awesome giving back if it’s pretty easy. Yeah, I mean, genuine human connection is
the number one way to do business. I can’t tell you how many times people reach out to
our agency or the podcast and they just ask, ask, ask. They never want to give any value to us. That’s
the wrong way to build a partnership. That’s the wrong way to build a connection. You need
to go to somebody and try to give them value first. Right, right, right. And a lot of times that
value is really just talking to somebody. I give this advice a lot. So it was my former
boss who’s now the CMO over at ShipBob. When he joined the company, he filled me in, my
coworker and my colleague. He was like, “I want you guys to go do this. I want y’all
to get better at networking, at having these coffee dates.” And I was super reluctant to do it. I come
from a small town, East Texas where I was taught that if you work hard and are nice
to people, you will succeed right? And I just always, in my gut, for better or worse, really
hated this idea of the cycle boys club or any kind of club. Anything where the entry
was who you know. I was like, “This is bullshit. It’s just messed
up. A lot of these people may or may not have worked for what they’ve gotten.” Like, “Why
is a network?” Truly, it used to be very, very much upset me. And then I started going
and talking to all these people and –I’m also an introvert– so that was my other thing.
I was like, “I don’t want to do any of this at all.” Which isn’t always true. But I started
doing it. And at first it really sucked, and I really
hated doing it. And then over time, I got better. And the next thing I know –because
I’m talking to all these people and meeting all these people– I’m getting introduced
to other people. And one of the really big important parts of going and meeting up with
these people and talking to these people is not to show up there with any kind of agenda. It’s truly a, “Hey. I think the work you’re
doing is really cool. How the heck did you get here? Do you like it? How do you do it?
Like, “Is there anything you want to be doing?” Like, “Awesome, cool. Here’s what I do. Let
me know if I can help you anytime in the future or if you’re ever in Austin or if you’re ever
in San Francisco or wherever you are. Let’s hang out.” And next thing you know, half those people
that you end up meeting are at a conference that you’re at, or I don’t know, doing podcasts
that you’re able to get on or hosting conferences and they’re inviting you to come and speak.
It is truly the way things work. People like working with their friends and they like working
with people who they view as hustlers. In a good way. (laughs) Somebody who hustles. And one of the best ways to appear to be that
kind of person –beyond following through on your word– is to make sure that you’re
showing up. That you are actually giving people a little bit of your time which ultimately
is the most precious resource that you can give anyone. Absolutely. And I think that going back to
that old adage of “Working hard and doing good work is going to get you ahead in life.”
That used to be true, I think. But now it’s, “People are working hard and doing amazing
work and networking harder than you. And that’s why they’re getting ahead faster.” It’s insane. Just even on my side as an agency owner, the
brands that we work with are brands people would probably be dream clients of other people.
Those people hardly end up on our website to the content we’re putting out. It’s usually
an introduction. It’s usually from meeting somebody. It’s usually from our network. Right. Right. Right. You have to do both good
work consistently and you need to be out there meeting people. And I’m telling you guys,
it really can be as easy as making sure every single week… And maybe in the same way,
maybe you have… Every week we publish a blog post. Cool. Also, every week, you or everyone on your
team needs to be reaching out to somebody –that you don’t think will say yes– to grabbing
coffee with you. And even if you’re in the middle of nowhere, make it like a Skype coffee
date or a Google Hangouts coffee date, whatever it is, and hop on the phone with people and
make sure that that is happening every single week. It’s going to suck at first if you’re not
used to doing it, but truly over time, you get so much better at it. It really helps
you to talk to people. It also helps you hone in your introductory skills and truly getting
to know what other people do, why they do it the way that they do it. I don’t know.
It opens up a lot of doors. It’s truly been one of the biggest career bumps and boosters
for me for sure. Awesome. And then me and Annette are huge
proponents of going to meetups. We host the one in Columbus, The Shopify Meetup. We also
help out with the Columbus eCommerce meetup. You can meet amazing people there. We just
had on last week, our buddy Shibo from Refersion. He met his business partner at a meetup. So… Yeah. It’s amazing. Just putting yourself out there
and just talking to people will do for you. Yeah, it’s awesome. Being just a little bit
vulnerable pays dividends. I’ll also say, some of the best connections that I’ve made
have been not necessarily talking about eCommerce but talking about religion and politics and
taxes and death. All the things you’re told not to talk about. But those are the ways that you build real
friends. That’s the actual goal. You actually want to be friends with these people. How
can you make that happen? How can you introduce yourself in a way that’s relevant? Talk to
them in a way that’s relevant and build real contacts. Again, not everyone’s going to become
your closest friends. Some of them will just remain contacts, but a lot of them will actually
become friends. It’s cool! Absolutely. Well, we can’t thank you enough
for joining us today. There’s so much awesome stuff out of this one. Is there anything else
that you want to leave with our audience? Um, anything else that I want to leave with
the audience? Where can they find you and your product and
your writing? Well, Doris Sleep is the website. So dorissleep.com
and then @DorisSleep is the Twitter handle as well as the Instagram handle. And then
for myself, you can find me @TraceWall on Twitter as well as on Instagram. And that’s
about it. And we’ll link to all that also for our listeners
so they can follow along. Awesome. Well, thank you so much and get out there
and network everybody. Thank y’all so much. It was so great being
here. We can’t thank our guests enough for coming
on the show and sharing the truth. links and more will be available in the show notes.
If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you’d like to apply to your business,
please reach out at electriceye.io/connect. Please make sure to subscribe to Apple Podcasts,
Spotify or your podcast app of choice.

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