Elizabeth, Patrick, Nina and Kelsey are the owners of Walls Need Love, a company that designs, prints, cuts and ships only the finest and freshest wall graphics.
In this episode you’ll learn about the Pinterest strategy that drives the vast majority (93%) of social traffic to their online store.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Which marketplaces they sell in and why they’re selling in them.
- How to work with bloggers to promote your product and get amazing product photos.
- Why you should have an organic pinning strategy before promoting Pinterest pins.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
- Store: Walls Need Love
- Social Profiles: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest
- Recommended: Refersion, ShipStation, Spring Engage, MailChimp, Bold Apps
Felix: Today I’m joined by Elizabeth, Patrick, Nina, and Kelsey from wallsneedlove.com. Walls Need Love designs, prints, cuts and ships only the finest and freshest wall graphics and was started in 2009 and based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Welcome, guys!
Elizabeth: [crosstalk 00:01:21]
Felix: Packed house! Let’s start off by, well, let’s talk about the store first. Tell us a little bit more about the store and what are some of the most popular products that you guys sell?
Elizabeth: Sure, yeah. We’re a home décor store, obviously, and we specialize in adhesive décor. Our big goal is to create a space for artists where they can support themselves by doing what they love, so we take their art and turn that into everyday objects so that more people can enjoy them on a regular basis. That’s kind of a brief synopsis of what we do.
Our claim to fame, as you would say, is our wallpaper. That’s been our biggest seller for awhile now, but some of our best sellers are our mini-packs. Our adhesive polka dots, stripes, stars, all kinds of things. Then our flagship product is called Easy Stripe, which is an adhesive removable wall striping solution. It replaces the need to paint stripes. You just put them on, and then when you’re done with them you take them down.
Felix: Very cool! Let’s, since we have a packed house today, I don’t think I’ve ever had four guests on the podcast before, tell the audience a little bit about what you guys, your roles at Walls Need Love, and kind of what you do on a day-to-day basis.
Elizabeth: Sure, I’ll go ahead an start. My name’s Elizabeth. I am the VP of Marketing at Walls Need Love. I have been here off and on for probably almost 5 years. The only person in the room who’s been here longer than me is Patrick, and I’ll let him take over in just a second, but I do everything from managing all of our third party marketplaces to creating the sample structure of our marketing program efforts, and then overseeing any conferences and events that we do. My right hand woman is Kelsey, and she’s indispensable. I’ll let her take over kind of what she does.
Kelsey: Well, thank you.
Kelsey: Yeah. My name’s Kelsey. I am the Public Relations and Marketing Manager at Walls Need Love. I’ve been with the company for about a year, and what I mainly focus on are the brand partnerships with some of the influencers that we work with, as well as kind of overseeing just the marketing campaigns. Right now we’re in our back-to-school phase, so a lot of that. We’ve kind of, me and Elizabeth, have headed up as well, and the social media aspect of our company as well I kind of run. That’s kind of my scope of work at Walls Need Love!
Patrick: This is Patrick talking. I’m the Art Director here. I’ve been here the longest of any employee that’s still currently working here, and my day-to-day thing is to find artists that we like to feature, reach out to them to organize their files. I also kind of oversee the overall art aesthetic of our website and what we produce and I quality control and manage the production team to make sure that everything prints correctly and gets sent out in a timely fashion. Then Nina can talk a little bit more about emails and campaigns and things like that. Every once in awhile I get to dive into that area and design some of those things, too, but that’s probably for me.
Nina just showed up! Say ‘hi’, Nina.
Nina: Hey! I’m Nina!
Patrick: She’s the Chief Design Officer.
Nina: Yeah, so I work with Liz and Kelsey and the marketing with emails, any outgoing marketing efforts that we do, anything with Instagram, website graphics and packaging, anything branded.
Elizabeth: She’s also our spreadsheet guru. We end up doing a lot of spreadsheets, whether it’s for Amazon or other companies, obviously Shopify, and if we need that done Nina is the one that has the patience and the know-how to figure that out.
Patrick: I think we all just mentioned the things we like doing here.
Patrick: We wear a lot of hats. Sometimes it’s spreadsheets or trying to figure out some sort of action to solve problems. What I do a lot is, I take Photoshop and I take template files and I run those to reactions and those become products and print files.
What Nina will do would be like working with an API guy to figure out how to make our spreadsheets actionable. That’s one of the things we’ve been working mostly on this last year is to take our day-to-day tasks and figure out how we can use outside software or some special software coding from a guru like this guy Mike we work with to make everything seamless and faster.
Elizabeth: Yeah, and Kelsey too has been tasked with Customer Service. We’re a pretty small team, so we do what has to be done and when the customer service wears Kelsey out then I take it over and we have another guy here who’s not with us tonight but if it’s anything technical or anything breaks or anything goes wrong or we can’t figure out how to make a latte, he’s the one who figures out how to do that. We really enjoy having him around!
Felix: Yeah, it’s cool because I think one thing you guys touched on was that you mentioned all the things that you guys like doing. I think that’s one of the keys to having a well-functioning team, is finding people and putting them in the spots that they, either they’re really good at or they really enjoy doing. I really kind of want to unpack all the things you guys are doing in a second, but before we get there I want to talk about the origin of Walls Need Love.
You guys are all members of the team coming on at different points during the journey or during the growth of the business, but tell us about the beginning. How did it all get started? Where did the idea behind Walls Need Love come from?
Elizabeth: Sure, so we have kind of an infamous story. The guy who owns and founded this company, his name is Ali Abrahimia, and he is just a really enigmatic character. He’s really a unique guy and a super creative guy. He was running a vanity license plate kiosk in a mall here in Nashville, and one day a little old lady came up to him and asked him if he could make a sign for her that said, “Grandchildren welcome! Parents by appointment.”
He said, “For you car?” She said, “No, I want it for my wall.” And so, Walls Need Love was born! He created an eCommerce site right after that and moved it into his apartment and then he brought on our old general manager, Chad Harris. Then they started it, with the two of them and one other guy, and then built it from the ground up.
Patrick came on shortly after that, and then I came on. By the time we were there, it’s probably 4 or 5 years now?
Elizabeth: When we started we were still in Ali’s apartment, one tiny room in his apartment.
Patrick: We only sold vinyl and decal.
Elizabeth: Only vinyl.
Patrick: Right, so like one color cutout, simple shapes and things like that.
Elizabeth: Yeah. We had 40 different colors, and then pretty basic wall decals. Kind of the cheesier spectrum of that whole genre.
Patrick: “Don’t go to bed unhappy.”
“Tears of … Rainbow Tears.” Just weird stuff that we don’t really sell anymore. We’ve kind of moved away from that demographic, but we had that one room and we had one cutter and then we bought a printer right when I came on, right as Patrick was starting.
Patrick: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Elizabeth: Started printing decals way before we were doing murals or wallpaper. Really quickly grew out of that room. At the end of the day, everyone would stop what they were doing and we would get together and package the boxes and get them ready to ship out, all 20 or 30 orders, which today seems crazy.
Then we got bigger, so we moved into another apartment and took over two apartments, then another, and then finally we outgrew the building that we were in and so we bought a warehouse, which is where we are now. Now we have 6 printers and 2 or 3 cutters and a whole production staff, that’s amazing, that runs our back of house.
Felix: It’s funny that you guys started in an apartment, then when you grew you just grew into another apartment. I’ve never heard of a business doing that before.
Patrick: It’s a 4 apartment building, used to be an old house.
Elizabeth: Yeah, in a really cool, unique area of Nashville on Belmonte Boulevard, which is right near where all the universities are. Which was really fun! We had a bunch of restaurants and coffee shops right next to us, so when we needed a meeting we would go across the street and have a cup of coffee. It was a fun area! It was a fun place to be at that time.
Felix: Yeah, so it sounds like the team was hired, at least the way you’re talking about it, hired pretty quickly right after the inception of the business. Or was there some timeline missing there? Because it sounds like, did it grow so quickly that you guys needed to grow the team so quickly, or what was going on in the early days?
Patrick: I would say it was about 2 years of a company before it went from 3 to all of us, because the main thing that happened, the reason that I even got hired initially, was that Ali purchased a printer so that he could start doing full color graphics instead of just vinyl cutouts. I was voiced with the position of creating new products that were full color, and once we started selling those, that’s when everything changed for us.
Felix: Very cool! I want to talk a little bit about the different roles that you guys handle at the company. Elizabeth, I think you were mentioning that one of the key roles you have is to manage the third party marketplaces. Tell us a little bit more about these marketplaces that you sell into, because this is always a channel that I think a lot of listeners are always looking to expand their marketing and their sales channels to other marketplaces beyond just their Shopify store.
Tell us a little bit more about the different marketplaces that you guys are in.
Elizabeth: Sure! We actually have quite a few.
We’re on Amazon. We’re on Fancy. We’re on Touch of Modern. We’re on Wayfair, we’re on [inaudible 00:11:24], we’re on Etsy, [inaudible 00:11:26], .bow, we’re on a bunch of them.
Patrick: Urban Outfitters.
Elizabeth: Urban Outfitters! Yeah, and we’re about to move into some new ones that we’re really excited about as well.
For people who have Shopify accounts, the easiest way to get involved with third parties is to find ones that are already integrated. Some of our biggest challenges in that arena have been companies that aren’t integrated and then integrate later and then having to deal with a whole host of issues around that, but it’s so different company to company. Obviously, Wayfair and Amazon are huge, giant companies and working with them can be a little bit more challenging. Actually, Nina runs most of the Amazon stuff. She’s our Amazon guru here, but smaller ones like Fancy and Touch of Modern, they can be really fun to work with and we get to curate some really awesome collections. Sometimes they pick them and sometimes we do, and it’s a great way for us to bring in extra revenue, but at the end of the day our focus is always going to be on our actual Shopify store.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
How do you know which ones you want to sell into, or is it just any marketplace you can get into the more the better?
Elizabeth: The more the better. Obviously there are some that are too big for us right now. Working with something like Walmart or something, any of those big box retailers, are much much harder. Being EDI compliant is important, and we’re just not ready to take that step, so we have to consider that. We have to consider whether or not we think they reflect our brand, and if they do then we’re willing to move forward pretty much 100% of the time.
Patrick: Margins are a big thing.
Elizabeth: Margins! Yeah, margins are huge.
Patrick: Having one of these third parties, they’re going to expect a certain percentage of a discount. We’ve run into some that we just can’t work with because we can’t find a middle ground as far as that goes, but that’s pretty rare.
Felix: You, I think Elizabeth, you mentioned a compliancy thing that you needed to adhere to? Can you say a little bit more about that?
Patrick: EDI compliance.
Elizabeth: Oh, EDI compliance. EDI is a huge monster, and we don’t fully understand it yet, but EDI isn’t … The company that we’re working with isn’t actually Shopify complaint, so we weren’t able to work with them because we couldn’t get it integrated. But the bigger companies want to do that. It’s a way to get huge amounts of product into stores very quickly, and to manage all of that data, but if you’re doing-
We do mostly drop-shipping, so when a customer places an order or a third party, that third party will let us know and then they’ll send us an invoice and then we ship it directly to the consumer. Which is great for us and works with some smaller companies, but for companies that are heavily using EDI it just doesn’t make sense for us or for them to collaborate in that way.
Felix: Is it just like an easier way, a more automated way to, I guess, share information about your inventory and handling all the orders and the shipping?
Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah.
When you are looking at all of these marketplaces to expand into, is there anything consistent or a scalable way to enter a new marketplace? Do you have kind of like a check list of things that you need to tick off before you enter a marketplace, or is every marketplace vastly different?
Elizabeth: Every marketplace is so different. The first thing, once you get all the paperwork signed and all that kind of stuff, the first you have to do is start building these enormous spreadsheets of data. That’s where it gets really time consuming and really difficult and that’s why, as I said earlier, if they are Shopify integrated and all of your products can be uploaded automatically and then goes directly through the back-end of your Shopify store, it’s so much easier!
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think, Patrick, you were mentioning the margins obviously have to make sense. What other deal terms do you have to look at when you are structuring these deals and marketplaces to evaluate if it’s going to be a good fit?
Patrick: Right. Well, another thing that comes to mind is, especially if this is a really popular third party marketplace, then one of our concerns is going to be “Are we going to get lost in everything else that they’re selling?” We really love working with third parties that do flash sales, because they’re always promoting those because they’re 72 hours or 4 days or something like that. Then we can also, some of these marketplaces will, you can, and maybe Lizzy can talk more about buying into promotions and stuff like that.
Elizabeth: Yeah, sure. One of the things that’s really important to us are the payment terms, so if it’s net 30, which means we get paid 30 days after the sale, which is most common, then we can work with that. But some companies will have a net 60 or a net 90, which means we don’t get paid for 3 months after the end of the deal which is obviously not doable for us because we have to reinvest that capital. But we also- What was your … ?
Patrick: I was saying like how some of the third parties we can kind of buy programs through them where they promote our product more.
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah! Especially companies like Wayfair and Fancy, they’ll do a lot of promotion where we can either give a percentage of the income that we make or just pay an outright fee and then get promotion from them. If they don’t have those programs in place, then a lot of times it’s not worth our time to invest in them because we just won’t see the return on investment that we’re looking for.
Felix: These features or these, I guess, different ‘programs’ I think Patrick is what you called them, are they available to any and all vendors that are selling through these marketplaces? Or do you have to kind of build this over time, after your partnership has been developed with the marketplace?
Patrick: Yeah, the latter. Yeah, you have to build a relationship with them and I think you have to do a certain numbers.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you do. Right now, we just decided now to do a really big promotion with Fancy, which is kind of this modern platform that we sell with, and we’re, to date, I think we’re one of their biggest clients in that regard. We work really closely with them, and they make sure that our content is first and foremost on their site, which is invaluable to us.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). How do you manage all of these different marketplaces, especially when you are trying to run these promotions? Do they ever require you to run promotions exclusively with them? Since you have so many marketplaces, do you put everything else on pause while you are focusing on pushing one particular platform? How do you manage all the promotion on all of these different marketplaces?
Elizabeth: A lot of time. Most won’t require that we pull sales from other places, but we have some that will scour the internet and say, “Hey, we found this product for less than … You know, you’re selling it on another website for less, and you need to either remove it or we can’t run this sale.” Occasionally we’ll accommodate that, or we’ll just pull the item from the sale. It just depends on the platform.
Felix: Makes sense. I want to move on to conferences. I think that that was mentioned as well, and I believe Elizabeth you’re also the one that heads up the conferences. Tell us a little bit about this. What are the conferences that you guys go to? What are the goals once you get to these conferences?
Elizabeth: Yeah. We have done a lot of experimenting with conferences, actually. When we first started doing them, maybe my second year of working here, we were doing home and gift shows which just were a total bomb for us. Our product is new, people don’t totally understand it yet, and at home and gift shows they want to buy your product to sell in their store and they didn’t want to have to explain it to their customers, either. That didn’t do very well for us, so we re-strategized and I think today probably our most conference was the Texas Society Style Council, which was in Austin, Texas. We went 2 years in a row before they cancelled it, but it was a space where we ended up collaborating with bloggers, which is how we do most of our marketing.
We go to these conferences, we sponsor them as a brand, and then we get a chance to meet not only big name bloggers but also new bloggers who are coming up in the world of blogging. Then we either provide them with product or we pay them for a service. We are doing that and then we also are doing a home show here in Nashville this year for the first time where we will actually sell direct to consumer, which we haven’t done. We’re excited and nervous about that, and we’re also going to a Pinterest-specific conference which has only happened 1 year before. I think it’s a brand new concept, but Pinterest is huge for us and so we’re going to go and we’re going to do a demo and then people will pin and we’ll see how that goes. We’re also really excited about that.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative), because you said that you guys experiment a lot with different conferences. I think a lot of listeners out there are interested in doing more of these in person events, but they might not have the team bandwidth or the money or the budget to go out to all of these conferences. What are some red or maybe even green flags prior to being at the conference based on what you’ve read about them, based on what you’ve seen before going, that makes you say “Yes” or “No, I’m not going to go to that conference”?
Elizabeth: Well, for us, especially- Let’s look specifically at blogger conferences. For us, we know our demographics, and so if our demographic is going to be at that conference obviously there’s more of a pull for us. Aesthetics matter. If the [inaudible 00:21:08] matches what we’re going for, the people that we’re trying to target, that’s important. Price is huge.
Patrick: Willingness to work with us, and show-
Patrick: Show our [inaudible 00:21:18] while we’re there, and again within aesthetics, not just the aesthetics of the people that are going but you can tell a lot by what someone’s website looks like.
Patrick: Then also history, like have they been doing it for a couple years? What’s the feedback? Stuff like that.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Never pay full price for a conference. You can always negotiate that down. They’re usually really willing to work with sponsors because they need them, and it’s just a great way- To sponsor a blogger conference is a really unique a special way to get to know them and to showcase your product. It’s a lot of work. It’s exhausting. It’s super difficult, but it’s always worth it.
Felix: When you are collaborating with a conference and you are sponsoring it, the baseline thing you get out of this probably your name and your product kind of all over the conference, but I assume that based on the experience that you guys have there are more kind of levels to it, there are more ways to kind of milk the opportunity rather than just paying and then giving your name or your logo on the banner somewhere.
How do you identify, or how do you begin, I guess, researching or digging into other ways that you can, I guess, customize the conference a little bit more towards your particular product, towards your particular brand?
Elizabeth: Yeah. It really depends on the conference. When we did Texas Society Style Council, we were actually put in rooms. We slept overnight in these bunked cabin rooms, and we were put with a couple big bloggers. They ended up becoming really good friends of ours, which is obviously a unique way to do things. That’s fairly uncommon, but that was a super effective way for us to get to know them. They’re actually still really good friends to this day, and we work with them a lot. It really is so different in every conference.
Felix: Makes sense.
Let’s talk a little bit about your collaboration with bloggers and working with influences, because you had mentioned that that was a key way that you guys promote the products. Tell us a little bit more about how do you actually work with bloggers to promote your product?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I’m actually going to hand it over to Kelsey, who knows the most about this.
Kelsey: Yeah, so we a lot of times- Well, we actually just set up an affiliate program, which has actually been really helpful for us because, I’m not going to lie, doing brand partnerships takes a lot of time. Because you want to make sure that their aesthetic kind of matches your own. We would never want to reach out to someone who we didn’t feel wanted to use our product or that we felt wouldn’t represent it in the way that we wanted it to be shown. There’s a lot of background and research that goes into reaching out to them and working with them, and then-
The affiliate program has just been really helpful for us, because we don’t have to necessarily spend the time going through and saying yes or no to these specific people. We can just put them all in a program and they become kind of like our cheerleaders, almost. They blog about us based on whatever requirements that we give them, or they do some sort of social media post or something like that. That’s kind of how we’re, I think, starting to lean towards how we work with bloggers. There’s still, I mean, every day I’m still talking to at least 2 or 3 trying to work out some sort of campaign with them.
Right now, we’re doing a room refresh challenge with 3 other bloggers. We challenged them to create, or re-create basically, a room in their home for under $500 dollars of our product. That will go live next week, but it’s kind of really exciting to see how these different bloggers kind of take on our products, you know? Some just have different styles. I mean, we had one that used our Easy Stripe in just like a really interesting way, and we have another that’s doing a lot of throw pillows and fabric sort of stuff. I think the partnerships are just really interesting, and you can actually get a lot of different perspectives on your brand that you yourself might not be able to communicate to your consumer. I think that brand partnerships are important, and definitely a lot of fun.
Patrick: I think one of my favorite things that we get out of working with bloggers is we get really great photos that we can use in our own marketing and advertising. Because it’s hard to set up photo shoots and stuff for every kind of product that we have, and like she was saying, people’s different aesthetics and stuff, they’re going to do things with them that we didn’t even think of and we get these stunning photos back that we’ll turn into promoted pins, or ads on Instagram or Facebook, or [inaudible 00:26:33].
Kelsey: Especially if you’re giving them just the product for it, it’s a no-brainer. Because, like Patrick said, you’re getting these images that you can then use in your marketing strategies. That, I know for us being a small company, is really helpful, because we don’t always have the time to you know go out on photo shoots and recreate these giant sets of product.
Elizabeth: The world of blogging has changed so dramatically since, even just since I started here 4 or 5 years ago. When I first started I remember we were working with bloggers kind of sending them stuff and trying to figure out what they were going to do with it, not really sure where it was going to go. Then we had this one who was requesting a paid post, and it was like $500 dollars or something. We were like, “Oh my gosh! That’s crazy. That’s so much money. I can’t believe they would ask something like that.” Now there are bloggers that make anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 off of a single post, and we have to decide whether or not it’s worth it to us to pay that much money. Usually it is. It’s a huge driver of traffic for us. It’s where we get a good percentage of our traffic, but each blogger wants to collaborate in a different way and we have to remember that this is how they make their living. This is their job. They’re professionals. They do this all the time and they do it well, and we have to pay them accordingly.
Keeping up with that world is a full-time job, and Kelsey does a really good job of making sure that she’s always on top of that.
Felix: Yeah, so speaking of these new business arrangements that you have to pray with these bloggers. Two questions about that. The first one is about the photography. I’ve never thought about that before, but I really like how you guys, based on what I’ve been hearing so far, you find different ways to I guess get multiple benefits out of one activity or one marketing strategy. With regards to the photos, do you need to include that in the deal anywhere to make sure that you get the rights to the photos? How do you make sure that there’s no issues there?
Elizabeth: Absolutely! We always disclose that up front. We talk with the blogger and ask the if that’s something that they’re willing to do. Usually, most of the time, they are 100% more than happy for us to use their images, but again it depends on the blogger. You always want to disclose that, and then make sure that you have it in writing, in a contract or some sort of way that you know that it’s an agreement that you’ve made. I would, yeah, definitely make sure that that’s a conversation before you enter into any sort of agreement with them.
Patrick: We give credit wherever it’s due.
Felix: Makes sense. The rights to the photography, obviously the payments or whatever it is they’re getting in return, are there other I guess key terms that you have to keep in mind if there’s a listener out there that’s thinking about trying this for the first time? What do they have to keep in mind when they are structuring a business deal with a blogger or influencer?
Elizabeth: Yeah, one of the biggest- Patrick just mentioned this, and he’s totally right- One of the biggest challenges is a timelines. If you, for example, we had some people that we were working with on a back-to-school promotion. They were wonderful and they did an incredible job for us, but we hadn’t communicated specifically our timeline to them and it ran over and we weren’t able to use the images for what we wanted to use them for, which was obviously kind of a bummer. If you’re going to do something like that, you need to communicate very clearly and put it down in writing what your timelines are, when you need it, when you have to have it, and then make sure that you can get it on time.
Felix: I was going to ask, what else do you have to do to make sure that it’s successful from your end? How do you make sure that- What do you need to prepare for the blogger? What kind of, I guess, packaging or communication do you have to give to the blogger to make sure that they are hitting all the goals that you want them to hit?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I think a lot of times I like to get them on the phone and just kind of chat with them initially, because that’s the easier way to really first off start a relationship with them, but also explain our product and kind of the major points that we want them to talk about and stuff like that. I’d definitely say that a phone call is always going to be a great way to make sure that you’re communicating exactly what you want from them and what they need from you.
Also, as I’ve been doing this for several months now, I’ve noticed you also have to know your own time is valuable. I think a lot of times we think that these influences have huge followings and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything for them, which is great and I think you should totally give them a great experience just like you give your customers, but also don’t let them waste your time. Because there are a few that just don’t answer you back, or don’t follow up with you. Sometimes that’s a bummer, but I think it’s important to know there’s another opportunity out there. There might be a better one, a better fit for you and your brand, so that’s just a little nugget of advice I would give for anyone too that might not be doing any kind of influencer marketing but wants to, is to know when to I guess look at other avenues. Not other avenues, but other bloggers and stuff.
Kelsey: When to say no.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly, because your time is valuable. You don’t want to waste time.
Patrick: I think something that the audience would probably like to hear to, about how we further use- You know, these people are obviously blogging on their own blog, but we do blogger spotlights and I think that’s a good way that we cross-brand, and maybe Kelsey can talk a [crosstalk 00:32:43]
Kelsey: Yeah, so we definitely, too, as well, kind of as- Not even an incentive, but just in general to cross-promote kind of the projects that we do with them is we interview them, just like we’re doing with this podcast right now, and we talk about their design process and their style and all of that. I think that that’s actually really fun, because our audience gets to see a glimpse into these people that seem almost like internet celebrities. They kind of get a glimpse into their lives, and then Nina and Elizabeth and I work together to create these really awesome newsletter campaigns around this idea of meeting the blogger, which is a lot of fun.
I think, too, giving them incentives like that is always really helpful.
Patrick: Yeah. Those bloggers are going to want to work with us again and again and again.
Kelsey: It’s beneficial! Exactly. It’s beneficial, too. It’s not difficult to give them accolades when you know that they’ve done a great job and you have enjoyed working with them.
Felix: I think you, based on what you’re talking about, you create content not just around the product itself but featuring these artists, featuring these influences and bloggers. I think a lot of store owners out there, especially when they’re starting out, they want to create content specifically and directly related to the product itself. Talking about the product in their blogs, in their emails. Does the content that’s not directly- Obviously that’s tied to your product, tied to the brand, because these are people that are part of the community, that are part of your brand advocates essentially, but is it as effective as content that’s more directly tied to the product itself?
Kelsey: I would say, yes.
Kelsey: I mean, the spotlight emails that we have done in the past have had some of the highest open rates for our email campaigns. I think the more native and the more authentic you can make the content for the customer, the better, because they don’t feel like they’re being constantly sold to. Because there’s only so many ways and times you can write about how your product does this or that without it just then starting to sound disingenuous.
Elizabeth: Yeah, and we have a lot of products on our site. Like, thousands of products! When you take someone who is in a position of authority, like a big blogger, and they say, “Here’s how I took these products and made a collection out of them. Here’s something that you can see. It’s all of the pieces are together.” People can relate to that. They say, “Oh, I like that collection. I can buy either all of that or pieces of that to make it work in my own home.” It helps them make the purchase.
Felix: Makes sense.
I think, Kelsey, you were saying earlier about- Well, a couple things. You were saying to make sure you respect your own time. Make sure you say no, and also filtering out influencers. One thing you mentioned was that you do the research to make sure they’re actually interested in your product, and I like this because I think when a lot of people are starting off in influencer marketing or working with bloggers they just look for a blogger or influencer that has the demographic that has the target market they’re going after, but you guys seem to go a step beyond that and say they have to have the audience but then on top of that they also have to be organically or naturally interested in your product or products like yours. How do you- What research goes into this? How do you identify as quantitatively as you can what influencers, what bloggers are actually interested in your product that will come across as naturally interested in the product when they talk about it?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I would say there’s several different ways.
Patrick: The big one is if they contact us.
Elizabeth: Right! If they- We get that a lot. We have a lot of influences that contact us directly, and that is obviously probably the number one way that we know that this person is interested.
Kelsey: Yeah. Another great kind of tool is tapping into influencer marketing management companies. Sometimes they can be a little difficult to work with as far as negotiating terms and stuff like that, but they’re really great at helping connect you with influencers that they manage that they know would be a good fit for you that are interested in working with you.
Felix: Let’s actually move on to social media. I heard a couple things mentioned when you guys were introducing yourselves. I heard Instagram, I heard Pinterest, so let’s start with maybe Instagram. What’s the strategy behind your Instagram marketing? How do you guys build up your profile? How do you drive the audience from Instagram over to the site?
Kelsey: Okay, yeah. I think the first thing that we really started to do with our Instagram was we wanted to make sure that it reflected our brand. I think all of us can say that branding is probably one of the most difficult things to do, and so we really had to think about what images that we wanted to have on our Instagram. What did we want to show our customer base? I think that was the number one thing that we thought about, and so that strategy. Just even implementing better photography, better-
Patrick: Yeah, if you go back in the past even before Kelsey was here we get an image from a customer and we’d just be so excited to have someone sending us a picture of the product up that we would post it. The lighting’s not good and stuff like that, so now we’re better at filtering through what we get or what we take ourselves.
Kelsey: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and we have a larger pool of better images to pull from, especially with the amount of bloggers that we work with now which gives us a wealth of images to use at any time.
Patrick: Even the smallest bloggers typically take very interesting photographs.
Felix: I like this idea of having these standards, right? Not just Instagram, but when you’re talking about branding there are these standards that you have to uphold otherwise your brand starts to kind of get diluted, starts to get deteriorated. Are these standards, are these I guess criteria, are they written down somewhere? How do you know? How do you make sure that there’s this filter that- I can hear you guys laughing, is this something that you guys deal with?
Patrick: You know that thing the other day? You know, it’s just like, Stephens is our analytics guy, and he’s like, “Hey, all these light and airy, [inaudible 00:39:29] photos on Instagram get the most likes.” We’re like, “Let’s put those kinds of photos out there.”
Elizabeth: It’s an unspoken rule. Kelsey’s really good about curating our aesthetic, and making sure that it all stays in line and on point, and that’s really what it is. It’s about creating the aesthetic that we want, and then making sure that our images fit within it.
Felix: So it’s pretty much unwritten, but it’s something that you guys all understand and you’re all kind of the filters yourselves?
Elizabeth: Yeah. To be fair, that’s how most things are around here.
Patrick: Yeah. I mean, I guess a good point to make at this juncture is that we’re all managers of our department, so whatever we aren’t doing we’ve put the people that are good at it in the position so, for instance, if it’s Kelsey picking out Instagram we know and trust that she’s going to follow the aesthetics. If it’s Nina doing a email branding thing, there’s no question that it’s going to fall in line with our branding standards, if that makes any sense.
Felix: It does.
Once you, you know, you guys have obviously built up a following on Instagram. Over 10,000 followers on there. Lots of definitely beautiful-
Felix: Yeah, 10.2! You guys cracked it. Congrats!
Obviously, great pictures. Lots of engagement on there. How does this, obviously an audience is great on a platform, but at the end of the day what you’re looking at is how do I drive this traffic actually to this site to check out the products to check out and learn more about the brand. What do you do on Instagram to encourage people to check out the store, to go beyond just the Instagram profile?
Elizabeth: I mean, I think that’s the great thing about our product is that it speaks for itself. Once you see it, you want to recreate it. You think, “Oh my gosh! Here’s this cool thing I can do myself. The wallpaper’s removable, it’s adhesive. I can put it up, if I don’t like it I can take it down. I don’t have to paint stripes anymore! Oh my gosh, it’s amazing!” They see the product, they see the full completed room, what they can envision the end results of it, and then they go and they buy it, which is amazing.
Patrick: We have really great followers, because if you look at a lot of our comments, most of them are just “Hey @so-and-so, this is totally for you!”
Elizabeth: [crosstalk 00:41:49]
Patrick: I think that helps. Then with our really popular pins, we turn those into promoted pins so that people can- That is an ad so that would, if clicked on, take the directly to our website.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Our best Instagram and Pinterest do that.
Felix: Cool, yeah. Let’s talk about Pinterest. On there also, 13.7 thousand followers, so congratulations there as well.
Felix: Tons of pins!
Elizabeth: Sounds good when you say it like that!
Felix: Yeah, so you guys have a lot of activity on here, too. Probably more activity on here it seems than on Instagram. What’s the strategy behind this? I think, Patrick, you were mentioning a little bit about how if there’s a popular pin you guys decide to promote it. What’s the starting point? How do you decide what to get out there in the first place, before you see what actually takes off?
Kelsey: I think, for me at least, it’s a lot of just getting on Pinterest and seeing what other people are pinning. There’s some background research that, I think, is really important to even see what are the trends? What are people pinning and wanting to put in their home? Because at the end of the day, Pinterest is a discovery platform. It’s an inspirational platform, so you go there because you are looking for some sort of solution or inspiration for whatever project or outfit or whatever it is.
Elizabeth: Pinterest is a wild and unexplored territory right now. Kelsey does all of our promoted pins, and we put them up and we experiment with them and we see what happens and that’s largely how we figure it out. It’s so much trial and error right now. The algorithms are changing almost daily it feels like, and we’re scrambling to keep up. So far we’ve done, Kelsey has done, a great job of that, which is really exciting, but keeping the content moving, always pinning things that we find inspirational, making sure that our boards are curated, that the top images look good, is really important.
Patrick: Pinning other peoples pins.
Elizabeth: Yeah! Re-pinning other people, other thought leaders, and then pinning directly from our website. Then of course Shopify has the ability to integrate with Pinterest so that we have buyable pins and people can buy directly from Pinterest from their mobile phone.
Felix: That’s awesome! Yeah, buyable pins are definitely going to be a great channel as people get onto it more and more.
There’s a difference, right, between the promoted pins and the buyable pins and obviously I’m guessing the more organic ones that aren’t being promoted or pushed. Which of these different strategies have worked the best for you guys? Is is the buyable pins? Is it the promoting a specific pin? What’s been working?
Elizabeth: I think, yeah, I think it’s a happy marriage between the 3. [inaudible 00:44:46]
Patrick: A Mormon marriage. No offense to Mormon’s!
Kelsey: Anyways! I think that you can’t really have one without the other, so I think if you have this awesome promoted pin but people go to your Pinterest boards and they don’t really feel inspired or don’t really feel like whatever they’re looking for is represented, more than likely they’re not really going to look at you as a thought leader in whatever industry you’re in.
Elizabeth: But promoted pins bring those traffic, right?
Kelsey: Yes, but as far as just if we’re strictly basing it on performance, bringing in revenue and stuff like that, promoted pins have been amazing for us. They bring in so much traffic, and the returns that we see are really great as well.
Patrick: [inaudible 00:45:50] Pinterest in that fact that we can very easily track our ROI, which is always, since we started promoted pins, has always been a greater return that our investment was.
Elizabeth: Yeah, and right now, of our social traffic, so including Instagram, Facebook, all of that, Pinterest makes up 94% of that! Obviously it’s a huge investment for us.
Patrick: Traffic to our website, yeah.
Felix: Yeah, that’s amazing! A lot of listeners out there are interested in Pinterest, have probably gotten their feet wet a little bit but are probably not as I guess successful on there as you guys have been, have not been able to devote as much time as you guys have been on there. For anyone out there that is thinking about getting started with Pinterest for the first time, can you just dive right into promoted pins just like how you would go on Facebook and buy Facebook ads or go on Google and buy ad words? Or do you need to start building up your board, building up a following first? Or can you just dive right in and just try out their promoted pinning strategy?
Elizabeth: I mean, you could, I just don’t know how …
Patrick: I don’t think it would work for us.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it think- Because I think the more we pin the more we stay top-of-mind. Then obviously integrating in the promoted pins you’re now getting direct traffic to your website, not just from whatever few pins.
Patrick: It’s like Googling something and you don’t show up in the organic feed, but you’re at the top as an ad. People don’t like that, you know? They don’t trust it, so it’s important that we are in both sections.
Elizabeth: Yeah. If you think about the nature of Pinterest, if someone sees something that they like then they want to click that and find more of what they like.
Elizabeth: If we have a strong background on our Pinterest of- Like, our Pinterest specifically has a bunch of different styles of home décor, and then each one of the has not only images of what that home would look like but our products are sprinkled into each one of those boards. So they can go find a style that they like, and then find products that would match it from our website.
Patrick: Right there.
Elizabeth: I don’t think that without having a strong aesthetic and content driven Pinterest, that the promoted pins would do much good for you.
Patrick: I guess we’re all saying, yeah you’ve got to do the organic thing first. Because we didn’t promote a pin until probably a year and half after we were on Pinterest.
Kelsey: I think it’s that idea of you need to establish your brand before you start advertising it. Honestly, I think you need to look at every single social media platform as your own little storefront for that demographic. It doesn’t make sense to start advertising when you don’t have anything in the store! Whatever metaphor you want to use, you know?
Patrick: The same idea that we’re talking about with Pinterest is the same exact thing, I guess from a philosophy standpoint, as ad words, Facebook ads, and Instagram ads are.
Felix: I think that makes sense. I heard two things in there, two benefits of making sure you go organic first before promoting. One thing is that you obviously want to have some brand awareness on the platform, to get people to be familiar with your aesthetic like you guys are talking about, with the brand, with the brand name. Then from there, it’s kind of this whole upper-funnel and lower-funnel marketing strategy where, get on there organically. You guys have over 25,000 pins. Obviously building a lot of awareness, and then once people understand your brand a little bit more drive them to the store with these promoted pins that actually get in their face and kind of get them to the store.
The second thing, I think Patrick might have mentioned it, was that you can learn a lot just from organic pinning, which is free. Learn about what people like, and then from there you know what you should actually pour money into, what you should invest your budget into so you don’t just promote pins that are not going to be successful.
Felix: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s a great approach!
Cool, so when you are- With Pinterest, is there- With Instagram there are influencers are there that help you grow your following, that help you promote your products. Does that kind of community exist on Pinterest as well? Can you find influencers on there that will help you build up your profile quickly by paying them for pinning your stuff, or can you work with influencers to post your products to maybe drive traffic to your store? Does that community exist on Pinterest?
Elizabeth: Yeah …
Kelsey: I think it does. We just haven’t really tapped into that, and a lot of that is because the influencers we work with we usually negotiate into the contract that they pin at least one image from their blog onto their Pinterest boards. A lot of times, that’s already in their kind of proposal to us anyways. They usually pin their images to multiple boards over the course of 3 months sometimes, so I think there are probably just Pinterest specific influencers, but for us we haven’t really needed-
Elizabeth: Well, all of the influencers, I say all, but most of the influencers that we work with have big influences on Pinterest. If they’re creating really good images then people are going to their site, saving them, pinning them to their own boards, so Pinterest is viral in that way. It’s getting pinned from every angle, and having those images is at the heart of it.
Patrick: It’s kind of like, I don’t know, like a Buzzfeed article can be 4 years old and all of a sudden it’s on everyone’s Facebook page. That’s the good thing about pins. Pins to us are more valuable than even blogs, because blogs disappear. Instagram photos disappear. Facebook feeds keep going, but pins don’t do that so much. Pins-
Elizabeth: They’re evergreen, yeah.
Patrick: They’re always going to be there, and they’re constantly growing on different peoples boards. It’s almost like a nice wine. Some of these pins just get better with age!
Felix: Nice. I want to talk, kind of wrap this up by talking a little bit about running the store itself. Obviously you guys have a, you mentioned you guys are a small team but you’re probably a larger team compared to a lot of the listeners out there. They’re probably solo founders or maybe one or two different people, so in terms of running the entire business what are some key apps or tools that each one of you uses or that you guys all use to make sure that the business is running smoothly?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I actually wrote some down. We use so many apps! Obviously Shopify is app heavy, but we use an app for our returns. We use an app for our blogger affiliate program. We use an app for integrating our products. Google Analytics. Shipstation. Mail Chimp. Spring Engage. Gosh, everything. We really like working with Bold apps. They are constantly updating their apps with Shopify, and so that’s really good, but we use an app for just about everything.
Kelsey: Yeah. We have an app for customer service … Yeah.
Elizabeth: Everything, yeah.
Patrick: We’re looking at our apps on Shopify right now, and a lot of times you [inaudible 00:53:24] and they don’t, but the good thing about people that are smaller and they’re using the Shopify platform is that a lot of these apps, free trials. You can test out how it’s going to work before you actually have to pay for it, which is something we like a lot about Shopify. If people don’t know, a lot of the apps are- It’s just an open market, so anybody can make an app and then submit it to Shopify and it can become an app that you can integrate into your store pretty much seamlessly or sometimes with very little code.
Felix: Cool, yeah, so with the blogger affiliate one. I think this one might be interesting to a lot of people out there. What was the service or the product or the app that you guys use for that?
Elizabeth: It’s called ‘Refergen’. We went through a lot of apps to find this one, and it is still a new app. There’s a lot of kinks that they’re working out. A lot. But we have enjoyed working with them. This is a new program for us. It’s only been up for, our affiliate program’s been up for a month and a half. We’ve got about 20 people on it. It’s new. We like the app, but it will be interesting to see where it goes in the future.
Felix: Very cool. In terms of the future for Walls Need Love, what do you guys have planned for the next year? What can the listeners look out for?
Patrick: Well, we’re definitely going to be adding, just kind of a little self-promotion here, one, the affiliate app, anyone listening who is interested in anything like that they can go to our website and click on the ‘Discover’ tab and that will bring up two things that I want to mention. One, the affiliate program, and then the other thing is there’s a ‘Sell Your Art’ tab. We’re constantly looking for new artists that have great art and also have a great social influence to join our team. They make a commission, and also, I don’t know if it was mentioned, the affiliate people get these codes. What are they called? The UF … something?
Elizabeth: [inaudible 00:55:30]?
Patrick: Anyway, they can make commission, right, based on, like …
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patrick: We can track links that come from them, and they can get a commission off of sales that happen from their websites or their blogs.
Elizabeth: And artists get 10%, so we really- We try really hard to support artists and bloggers in their craft, and they do the same for us. We will be using that more. We’ll be going to this pinners conference and trying to dig deeper into Pinterest. Hopefully, maybe some day, we’ll be in to big box retailers, so we’re looking to expand in ways that we haven’t yet. We have a million things that we want to do! It’s going to really exciting over the next year, so stay tuned!
Patrick: A couple immediate things that are going to happen is, we’re going to have a new filter menu. Which, since we do have- For instance, if you clicked on ‘Murals’ on our website, there’s 27 pages of murals. We’re looking at a really good fine-tuned filter menu, that should be up soon. Then also stay tuned for a custom upload app, so basically if you wanted to put your own art or a photograph on a throw pillow you’ll be able to upload your own art and then we will manufacture it and send you whatever you order.
Felix: Very cool! Thanks again so much Elizabeth, Patrick, Nina, and Kelsey. Again, wallsneedlove.com is the website, is their store. Anywhere else that the listeners should check out if they want to follow along with you? Definitely going to link up the Pinterest, definitely going to link up the Instagram. I think those are going to be two great examples for businesses to follow. Anything else that you guys thin that they should check out?
Elizabeth: Yeah. You can sign up at the bottom of our website for 20% off your first purchase, so if you’re interested there you go!
Patrick: Yep! [inaudible 00:57:13]
Felix: Yeah, definitely. Okay, awesome! Again, thanks so much guys.
Elizabeth: Thank you!
Kelsey: Thank you!
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the eCommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30-day free trial.