While most people enjoy a few rounds of golf on the weekend, Tyler Sullivan became obsessed with the game and wanted to achieve the longest drive.
Along the way, Tyler got custom clubs and drivers made that ended breaking so he started to make his own. Realizing that others might face the same frustration, Tyler started BombTech Golf and began selling the clubs and divers he made.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you'll learn how BombTech Golf became a $15 million company and why Tyler credits personal responses, comments, and emails for his success.
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- How to get your customers to converse with you over email
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- How to create an irresistible offer when customers visit your page
Felix: Today, I'm joined by Tyler Sullivan from BombTech Golf. BombTech Golf sells performance golf clubs for weekend warriors. It was started in 2012 and based out of Williston, Vermont. It has generated over four million dollars, in annual sales.
Felix: Welcome, Tyler.
Tyler: Glad to be here.
Felix: You started this business because you were obsessed with golf. What did you feel like you had to offer that the current marketplace, that you saw, didn't have, at the time?
Tyler: I honestly had no intention of starting an ecom brand. I really just truly was obsessed and passionate about golf. I was trying to compete in a really niche sport of long drive, attempting to hit the ball as far as you can. It's like the home run derby of golf. I wasn't that good. But in that process of trying to hit it as far as I could, I ended up having all these custom golf clubs and golf drivers made. Broke a ton of them. Just got frustrated and started assembling my own. Then just said, "You know what? Let's see if anybody else wants one." Actually, that was prompted by a friend of mine who asked me what I was swinging. I go, "Maybe there's an opportunity, here."
Tyler: So, I made the world's worst website. This was before I even knew what Shopify was. This is seven years ago, now. I put up a really bad website with flashing lights on it and a guy with all muscles, that was a cartoon character, breaking a golf club. I ended up selling a product. It took me like six months to sell a custom driver. That was the first moment where I said, "I want to do more of that," 'cause I actually sold it when I wasn't at work. I was just on a boat. It wasn't a yacht or anything. I heard this first ding come in. It was my first sale ever.
Tyler: That was kind of the feeling or moment when I said I want to just more of that. But I didn't have the intentions or game plan to do ... We've done like 17 million since I started or something like that. Or 15. I can't remember the number. Yeah, that was the proof of concept. Living the dream, now.
Felix: Yeah. That's awesome.
Felix: You start off by assembling your own, for your own purposes. Did you have experience creating products or creating physical products like this before?
Tyler: No, I had not.
Tyler: I started ... Again, this is like pre-drop shipping. Before that was kind of a thing. I was just taking different components from smaller brands or manufacturers and making them custom. That was our kind of unique selling proposition when we first started. We were making a niche product, totally customized, some of them myself.
Tyler: I was just talking to a college friend of mine, from the University of Vermont. I said, "Hey, I'm making these custom drivers." At that point, I'd sold, not that much. It was $5000.00, $10000.00 worth. I was already having issues with the suppliers. I said, "I'd really like to make my own, have my own brand."
Tyler: He says, "Well, you're not that smart."
Tyler: I said, "You know, you're probably right"
Tyler: But his idea was to call the University of Vermont, where we both went to college, and ask them if we could work with their engineering department. They've got a program every year where you can apply to work with a group of students.
Tyler: I applied, out of the blue. They didn't know who I was. The brand didn't really exist. Together, I worked with a group of students for about a year to make our original driver design.
Tyler: I really just documented that process on Facebook, early days. And documented just going through the process like, "Hey, we're working on this design, this shape. What do you think? What color shaft do you play? What driver do you play now?"
Tyler: Just bringing people along for my journey made it a pretty ... I wouldn't say easy. But I had a somewhat warm audience that had been following the process of design, the process of launching the brand.
Tyler: So, when I did launch my own driver and I was a legit product, I had people ready. That's how I got into the design side. Which was a long and difficult way to start but it's a cool story and I wouldn't take it back.
Felix: You mentioned that this was a difficult way to start, getting into this program. But it sounds like a great opportunity. Was it free for you to if you got accepted into the program?
Tyler: It was free. I think it's now 1000 to 5000 per group.
Tyler: Usually I do ... I have been working with them for like six years, now, I work with a group of students every year. We actually did a ski design last year, as well. I'm launching a ski brand ... Not to get derail the conversation. But we always work on something. Now, I think it's 1000 a project.
Tyler: It's not like we always come up with something innovative or game-changing. But it's a cool experience to work with a group of students. We're one of the few projects that ... I try to have an actual finished prototype before the semester or the year's over whereas most projects are a theoretical and they don't really have a finished product. Whereas my goal is to always have something that we can test for the rest of the year. We have a really rapid schedule, compared to everyone else. The kids love it. I love it. It's just a fun thing to do with my old college. It gives us a cool way to launch new projects and have a different angle and perspective to it, you know?
Felix: Got it.
Felix: You don't want to use this valuable opportunity to just create one iteration, you want to have something ready to go so you can spend the time in the program iterating from there?
Tyler: I prefer ... Again, this is not ... Every program's different. But I try to push them to finish the first semester so then we can actually, I have time to make a prototype. Then, they can do testing on that. It doesn't always work out like that. This last year, it took a full year. Then the next year, we actually did testing on top of that for a whole year.
Tyler: Every school, I think, has this. Again, it's not like it's, not every product's going to crush it. But for me to start out my own brand, this was, is, a really cool thing to do. They did an amazing job. It was a great story to tell.
Felix: All right. I'm sure that universities are holding a program like this.
Felix: What do you think makes a candidate, in your experience, attractive to a university when they have a program like this? What can you do about your company, your product, your idea that will get you picked?
Tyler: You're working with students so it's really got to be something they're passionate about. Every year ... We now have a list that wants to sign up for our specific project just because we've been doing it for so long. They kind of know us.
Tyler: I don't know. If you're doing something passionate, I think that will just show when you present to them. That's really what I think, in terms of anything, whether you're starting your own brand, your own product, your own business, do something you like 'cause you're going to be doing it a lot.
Tyler: People are like, "Why golf?" I was already going to, I was already doing that. I was obsessed. It's an easier thing ... As long as it's something you're passionate about, just go with that.
Felix: Right. Makes sense.
Felix: You mentioned that while you were going through this program and building out the initial design, doing prototype, you're documenting this on Facebook. What did you find that this did for your ... What did it accelerate for your business, by documenting?
Tyler: This was early Facebook, 2012, '13, '14 timeframe.
Tyler: I only had like 2000 likes or something. But 2000 people would actually see it. So, it was a small audience but a captive one. Really, Facebook's how we launched the brand. It just allowed me to engage with customers, one on one.
Tyler: I tell this story quite a bit, I had a video that I posted when Facebook video just dropped. I hit the ball and it sounds like a shotgun goes off. I said something like, "Does your driver sound like that?" I boosted it for $300.00. It got like, I think it was like 300000 views and 10000 comments. What I did is, I commented on every single comment until my thumbs were going to fall off.
Tyler: By doing that ... This is early Facebook ... it allowed me to engage and start relationships, one on one, by just, literally, commenting. If it was, "Thanks for your comment." Even if it was not a great comment or they didn't like it or whatever. Just acknowledging them, that helped really start to build the following, build engagement. I'm a big fan of overall relationship building at scale. That slowly started to build the brand. We got a lot of exposure. People saw we commented on every comment. So, there was a human element to it. That really built the business and the brand, was Facebook early days.
Tyler: Now, we take those same strategies and we use them with our Facebook groups which are big now, then our email programs, as well. That drives a significant portion of revenue, about 45%. We just focus on our core channels and make an awesome product and really caring about the customers, at the end of the day.
Felix: When you say that, you're doing this now with the Facebook group and you're talking about documenting and the process, getting their feedback, along the way?
Tyler: Really, the overall goal here is to have conversations, as many as you can. And have them be real conversations. So, back and forth, not just me pushing a sales message. Be like, "Hey, we've got a sale," to you and you not responding. A lot of what we do in email, in groups, and on our Facebook page is to ask questions whether they be basic or more complicated, things that we actually want to know. As a business owner, there are so many things I want to know to make the brand better whether it's product design, product launch, quicker shipping, a different product. Whatever is, I ask real questions I want to know the answer to. Then, it gets people involved ... I say engaged but ... gets them involved where we're having a two-way conversation.
Tyler: For us, email still is the most effective. We use a ton of question emails to ask, "Hey, do you want this early access? What do you think of this product? What price would it be?" Really just basic questions that people can answer easily. Then, when we have a new product launch or we have something that we want to actually show them, they've already been having a discussion with us on Facebook, on our group, and in email. So, it makes it that sale or that push, if you want to call it that, really effective. If we're not having conversations on all these platforms ... two-way conversations ... there's no way you're going to survive, long-term.
Tyler: That's how I look at those assets and platforms, it is just as opportunities to have conversations. If you have real, genuine conversations, you're going to win and be able to succeed long-term. And you learn a lot about your customers and what they want. That's all you're really there for is for them, anyway.
Felix: I think a lot of listeners out there might err on the side of under-communicating where they are worried about bothering or annoying their customers too much. Can you give us an idea of how often you're sending emails or how often you're trying to get them to talk to you, essentially?
Tyler: We are very aggressive with the amount. We have automation set up. You're going to get emails, at least, from just one flow alone, for seven days in a row.
Tyler: But we send question emails to get people engaged. Then, essentially, what they do is, they'll reply. That gets them from going from the promotions tab to the inbox. It's almost like we have this ongoing dialogue. It's funny. You can look back for months and see that one potential customer has been having a conversation with a customer service rep for, could be three or four months. Just a casual back and forth.
Tyler: Having those types of relationships, where guys think they can just communicate with us, almost, daily, it's really game-changing. Now, that's the difference in having a brand and just selling stuff.
Tyler: Then, same with the campaigns. The campaigns are huge for us. We just did $102000.00 in one day. The majority of that revenue ... That was only a $5000.00 ad spend that day. The majority of that was from email. We have many days that are similar to that because we use email, pre-launch, to get people warmed up, get people excited, get their feedback. I want to know which product is going to do better. It's not what I think is cool. Every time I think something is cool, it doesn't do well. So, we really use email, specifically, to get people excited, involved, and really find out the answers of what products are going to be successful before we go through the process of making them. You know what I mean?
Tyler: So, it's a full system and process to do it well. I think email, not to get really into the email, but it's just, it's one of those things that's easily overlooked because everyone sends email. Everyone gets email. You think, "Yeah, I know how to do email."
Tyler: But you don't ... There are some amazing things that you can do to drive significant revenue, crazy revenue. Overall, build that to be healthy so that if Facebook ads go to hell or if your other organic traffic or however you're driving traffic, Instagram, Google Ads, if that becomes not profitable, could you survive with just your email and your customer list? That's how I look at it, as well, is, yes, we could because we really maintain the health of that list, you know?
Felix: You just want to ... 'Cause this has happened before where people have invested a lot of money onto one platform, probably most recently, AdWords, for example. All of a sudden, the prices go through the roof. All of a sudden, you're kind of at the mercy of new profit margins or lack of profit margins because of not building this list.
Felix: You mentioned that a lot of people will say, "I know how to do email." What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about email marketing, based on the entrepreneurs that you've spoken to?
Tyler: We do a ton ... We do, I have another business, Ecom Growers, where we do Klaviyo, gold, almost platinum certified. We've got 10 to 15 clients where we manage their email. Typically, brands of one to two million. That's kind of our sweet spot.
Tyler: But really, I think, there's a lot of overthinking that happens in ecommerce, in general. I'm definitely one that you could say does this, as well. Email, it's like we see a lot of brands trying to make them too sexy. HTML and making them so beautiful and over-designed and spending so much time and effort when really, plain text emails with copy that causes action, is the most important thing. That's number one. Spending too much time and energy and money on things that feel good to you but actually, don't cause action and drive revenue.
Tyler: Number two ... What was the other one I wanted to say with email? It's the images and that. There was one other thing I wanted to say. I can't remember what it was.
Tyler: But, yeah, that's the big thing. Just the concept of trying to make it into something that it's not. It's just a dialog, to my whole point. It's just a conversation.
Tyler: That was the other thing. We always see clients coming in with these beautiful emails. But they've gotten many calls to action. Like, "Hey, here's our newsletter." And it's like 15 different things you read and click on. It's like, every email, for us, has one specific thing we want you to do. That's it. It's like keep it simple. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. That's all you really need to do. That's the basic stuff that if you did that today, it would make a huge difference.
Felix: Right. Yeah.
Felix: I think we try to appear bigger than we are by going with these, by making it too beautiful. A lot of times, that kind of comes across as advertising. It doesn't come across as intimate as it should be when it comes to their email.
Felix: You mentioned that I think the key thing you mentioned here was about running copy that will drive action and only one action, not multiple actions, not attempting to drive multiple types of action. Now, what kind of advice do you give to someone that just doesn't know much about copywriting, doesn't know where to begin to write copy that moves people?
Tyler: I would just start testing, especially if you're new. It's really simple to set up AB tests or when you send a campaign, try something that may be out of your comfort zone. See how your audience reacts. Every audience reacts different to different messaging, different copy.
Tyler: For me, the industry that I'm in, I'm really passionate about it. So, it's really easy to come up with the copy and knowing that. But, I think, if you just take a step back and ask questions, if you have no idea where to go with copy and you feel lost ... I think, for a lot of people, writing emails, "I don't even know what to say." Or, "I've got too much to say." Take a step back. Assume you know nothing. Just start asking questions. You'll see. We'll ask questions and get answers that don't even answer that question. But it gives us so much insight into what our audience and our people and customers want and what they're thinking, what their fears, concerns, hopes, dreams, all that stuff really are and is. There's magic in that 'cause then your copy and your voice comes together really quickly when you actually know the audience versus assuming you know because it's your brand, right?
Felix: Because you've grown to size now, where I'm assuming, multiple people that are conversing or responding back to these emails, how do you get the data and the responses back in a way where it's actionable and that knowledge is shared across everyone? If someone on your team gets an interesting email with great information in terms of product development or ways of speaking to your customer, how do you get that to the rest of the organization so that everyone is updated on, essentially, this valuable information that's coming back from the customers in the emails?
Tyler: I have a very, very small team and believe in a super lean operation. I only have two direct employees. They both are in charge of the phone and email.
Tyler: We've got a meeting once a week, I call a pulse report. We just talk about what customers are saying in email, on phone. I actually manage some of the comments on ads. So, we've got a three-pronged approach. I hear from them. They hear from me. Then, I actually go through and do just ... We use Help Scout to answer emails faster. I'll just look, overall, at of a few emails, to get a sense.
Tyler: But, really, as a founder, I think it's something that is 100% worth your time is to take a little bit of time, probably take a lot of time, honestly, 'cause it's worth it to dive into your Facebook comments, to email responses. Just see what people are saying because you may digest that reply much different than your customer service guy. But I tell them to report everything and anything that seems unique, in a good way. Like a really good review or feedback that they think is concerning. But they'll never, no matter what, you'll never see an email. It's just good to get that general sense.
Tyler: I don't know. If you had a ton of employees, I really don't know why you would need a ton of employees to run a pretty large ecom brand, to be candid. That's one thing I believe in. We've got a 3PL in Wisconsin. We've got an ads guy that's an expert. My partner does our email. Then, you add customer service and the 3PL. That's all you really need. I don't know. People have different setups but some brands we've spoken to have a ton of employees. I candidly, I want less overhead. You know?
Felix: Right. That makes sense.
Felix: When you are sending out ... I want to actually dive into more about the content of these emails.
Felix: You mentioned that you're asking a lot of questions. Are there examples that you like to always rely on, whenever you're launching a new product? What kind of questions are things that you definitely want to ask your audience?
Tyler: Yeah. I don't want to give away all my secrets.
Tyler: This is so simple. Again, this stuff is not revolutionary. The most basic question we have is an email that's subject line is a question. We ask them about our drivers, one of our main products. We just say, "What driver do you play now?"
Tyler: That just gets them to reply. Everyone knows the driver they have. It's an instant reply. That's our first question that we ask, in any of our flows. That gets us, typically, from the promotions to the inbox.
Tyler: For product launches, we'll literally just say, "Hey, do you want early access? Reply back with the word boom or yes." So simple. Maybe one line, two lines max. Then, we get like 2000, 5000 replies. We can tag those people and let them know early, like, "Hey, you've got early access." They feel like they got something special.
Tyler: It doesn't have to be revolutionary. It's just these little things that get them excited. You're now getting higher open rates, higher click-through rates, you've got people in the inbox. Now, people know a launch is coming before it's coming and they're engaged.
Tyler: So, you did a lot with very little versus what we used to do. It still worked. We'd send an email, the day of the launch. And say, "Hey, it's here," do you know what I mean-
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler: ... versus, "Hey, do you want early access? What do you think about ..." We'll even ask questions like, "What do you think ... The price is going to be 150, at launch. Should we do a special deal offer of 97?"
Tyler: They'll be like, "Of course, yeah."
Tyler: Just simple stuff like ... We're just asking questions in a way that's almost selling, as we're doing it. It's a difference of ... We could've said those same things but without a question format and just pushed it out to them. But it wouldn't get the opens. It wouldn't get the replies. It wouldn't get the engagement.
Tyler: It all just goes back to just having a conversation. Again, you can change it up a million different ways. But just basic concepts of asking stuff you want to know, having them reply easily, and also giving them future awareness. Especially with a product launch, is one of the reasons we did six figures in one day, you know?
Felix: Got it.
Felix: You're basically giving them information but you're trying to capture their attention first. You're still telling them, "Hey, there's going to be a sale from 150 down to 97," essentially. But you're actually asking, "Hey, should we do this?"
Felix: Of course, you're already going to do it. But the idea's just to capture their attention and get them thinking about, wow, there is a sale, almost like another level into their awareness when you frame it that way rather than just telling them, "Hey, there's going to be a sale."
Tyler: That's a good way to do it. It's more the framing and personal conversation versus a HTML design, the full circle conversation. But HTML, beautifully designed, multiple distractions, then, maybe, to one of those areas you said, "Hey, sale today. 15% off."
Tyler: That will be absolute crickets versus these questions preemptive engagement. It will absolutely probably 20X what that other email would do 'cause it's buried, it looks sales-y. No one's going to open those anyways versus they're already getting hyped up. They're messaging back. Now they're telling their buddies that are in the group. Just like, "Oh, did you get that email? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm going to get early access."
Tyler: So, it's almost like a flywheel effect where people start talking about it, too. It's a whole different method, you know what I mean?
Felix: You're talking about they're talking amongst each other in the Facebook group that you have?
Tyler: Oh, yeah, totally.
Tyler: We'll see a lot of emails that we send out. Then we'll see posts, pending posts, in our group, that are directly related to the email. That's what you want.
Tyler: We'll then approve that post. Then it will leak out some of the same info. That's just kind of ... I don't know what the word would be but ... coordinating or having a cohesive message from our email to on social. Not everyone's going to see every email. And not everyone's going to see every Facebook post or Instagram post. So, having both of those and those dialogs going, on all platforms, is really powerful. We always try to have a product launch group and ads be cohesive.
Tyler: We just launched a Volcano Torched 72-degree wedge which is sick. We coordinated the Facebook group, our ads guy, and our email guy. It's a really simple discussion. But we make it around the same page, similar copy, same offer. That just, it makes every launch and every deal, and even Evergreen stuff, more effective.
Tyler: Then, the group, guys get excited. They post their order numbers, like, "Hey, I just bought it." It's a natural bandwagon effect where guys who're like, "Oh, my God. I need to get that," or "I didn't know it existed."
Tyler: So, it's a multi-touchpoint method between our, I'd say, three core places. Doing the fundamentals well and not getting distracted and doing all the stuff that doesn't matter. Work on stuff we know that works, have good offers, and care.
Felix: You have a list of buyers now, you have a growing list on your email and the Facebook groups. I think earlier you mentioned that you had, when you started documenting, you had about 2000 people that were tuning in. Were these friends and family? Where were these 2000 people coming from?
Tyler: Actually, early Facebook. This is bringing me back. I'm having a flashback.
Tyler: I actually would pay for likes. The likes were real. When I had 2000 likes, I'd pay, at that time, a lot of money for me 'cause I was broke. But those likes were real and people would engage. Now, you talk about changes.
Tyler: I brought up email as our asset and being able to survive, just on email. I've already gone through multiple algorithm changes. A big one for us was ... We've got like 115000 Facebook likes or something. We used to be able to reach all those people. A thing that really did have an impact on us was Facebook's organic reach drop. A normal post, two, three years ago, would get, man, we used to get 300 plus shares. I remember I had one post said 10000 shares ... One Facebook Live had 10000 shares, 9000 comments. When that changed, that really had ... I wouldn't say it was game-changing, like super negative, but it definitely impacted the business. And because we had ... The only true thing we still control on our own is email. That's how I look at it as the most important thing. We've already been through that algorithm change where those 115000 likes are now worth 115, coming from a place where 2000 likes probably got more likes than I have now when I would post something, versus 115000.
Tyler: By doing that, that was one of the shifts we made about two years ago with focusing on asset building. The group is, it's a similar thing. We've got groups that are good but they still are not what they first were. Any platform, if you're relying on them, all in, man, I would be scared. For us, we look at email as the most important asset. E-customer list, most important. Then, your subscriber list, non-buyers. That's one and two are the biggest asset. The group is important but you can go away at any time. That's how I look at it. The same with Facebook and Instagram, still important but are not a true asset.
Tyler: Not to go off topic, but Amazon, we were selling FBA. I actually pulled the plug this year because I felt I had no control. I had no buyer information. Was 100% at the, under control of what their algorithm was. I just said, "You know what? I just don't want to live by that. I don't want to have that risk." I got rid of all ... We sold out of what we had on there, was a best seller product. Now, we sell only 100% on our own website so we get the buyer information. It's that important.
Felix: I'm assuming that led to some kind of drop, initially, that you may or may not recover from, since then. That must've been a tough decision to make, at the time, regardless of-
Tyler: Sales went up. You know why? I was worried about it, at first. Amazon was bidding on our own terms. They were bidding on BombTech Golf. I didn't notice at first. We'd shaved back our AdWords budget a little bit. I said, "It's really weird. We're hammering Amazon sales." I'm like, "What's going on?"
Tyler: I looked and I was like, "Oh, man. They're bidding on our own keyword." At first, I was like, "That's not a bad thing."
Tyler: But really, when we turned it off and just got rid of Amazon, all that happened was we just absorbed those sales on our own website.
Felix: That's awesome. Best case scenario.
Tyler: Yeah. Best case scenario.
Tyler: Again, the volume wasn't crazy. But we did have the best selling product on there, had a bunch of good reviews. It's a great product.
Tyler: I didn't want to live that, I didn't want to run that type of business that was so prone to one algorithm change and you're all in on that platform and you own nothing? That's not a business. That's a cash lowering income stream. That's great. I'm not saying that's not a good way to do it if you want more income.
Tyler: But, for me, it's all about, now that we're so good at email and that list building, I want every email. Especially a buyer email? That's the most valuable. It was a big move we made. It ended up not being a big move at all. It was a move we should've made a while ago.
Felix: I want to talk about building an audience, specifically, from scratch. Obviously, in this conversation, email is where you see the most value and even differentiate between a list of people that are prospects versus a list of buyers.
Felix: So, if you're starting from scratch, you don't even have a list of buyers yet, you want to build an audience, to begin with before you launch your product. What kind of advice would you give here? What are the best ways to start building an audience from scratch?
Tyler: Yeah. I'm actually doing this right now.
Tyler: I am launching a ski brand, in the fall, if everything goes well. This is a pure ... If you think I'm a big golfer, I'm a bigger skier.
Tyler: I'm just super passionate about it.
Tyler: I worked with UVM, same story, to design skis. This is actually our second year of ... I've gone through like 15 prototypes. I think I've got the final design dialed in. All I've been doing for the last year is I've slowly been posting videos, pics, updates, videos at the college, just basic stuff to get some content out there.
Tyler: I'm going to start a group. We're, hopefully, to launch in the fall, late fall. So I want to make a basic Shopify store with a sign-up. Just going to be a pop-up, probably Privy, I think, and say, "Hey, it's called Ice Beard Skis. You guys check it out if you want." We've got like 50 likes. We're killing it.
Tyler: We're new. We're brand new. This is to answer your question. What we're going to do is just have a basic website, really clean, and just get people hyped up and signed up for when that product launches. Then, what I will do, is do a pre-order before I launch to see if the offer and the product has legs before I go to market. Really, that's, I'm going to start documenting more and more, as we get closer. Just making more content, doing Facebook Lives, going in some other ski groups. One of my buddies owns a ski company, as well. Not a ski brand but a ski apparel brand. I'm going to ask him if I can post in his group. Just things like that, that are more like organic or ... What would be the word? Hustling a little bit, just to say, "Hey, get yourself out there and get some people talking."
Felix: Right. Kind of not scalable approaches to start.
Tyler: We will use ads, for sure. We're definitely going to run ads to test the offer during the pre-order phase.
Tyler: That's really it. It's nothing ... Again, it's really fundamental. I love to ski. I'm already skiing. I've been skiing a lot this winter. When I'm there, I'll just take a photo or I'll go Facebook Live on the chairlifts and just talk to people. I'm already doing it and love it. So, for me, it's a really easy thing. That's why I could never sell something I don't love and know. It would feel like work, you know what I mean?
Tyler: It's almost something that I was already doing anyways to build the audience, talk to people. I don't know if that answers your question, just do something you're passionate about, make content about that. You don't have to be the best about it. I make videos that are really raw, authentic. One of them, I have ice in my beard. I may not be looking my best. That's what people want, you know what I mean?
Felix: Right. You are creating all this content. I think the piece that I might be missing so far is where is this being distributed? You mentioned that you'll probably do some groups and do that. You go on Facebook Live. You're going live with just your friends and your family?
Tyler: It's not a big audience. Right now ... Again, this sounds crazy but just Facebook and Instagram, super small following. It's mostly just family and friends. Then, I do post in a couple of ski groups, just questions like to our whole thesis of this discussion, questions like, "Hey, guys. What skis do you ride? What length do you ride? What brand do you ride?"
Tyler: People start reaching out to me like, "Oh, dude, what's up?" Just building relationships, one to one. Then I'll invite them into our own group.
Tyler: The goal is to build up a group, like we've done before, add the email list, and just sort of making content. Really, the goal is to the content and start to get, even with my small circle of family and friends, is to see what content does well. That will help shave some time for ads.
Tyler: I've got, already, a library of content from the previous year. I can then go to my ad guy and go, "Hey, this is what I think has done well, organically. What do you want to run in an ad format?"
Felix: Is that usually a good correlation, if it does well organically, it's going to, most likely, do well, as well, when you put some pay, dollars against it?
Tyler: You're probably going to get more shares, cheaper clicks. It may not absolutely kill it but he may be able to tweak it with a better offer or something. But, often, yeah. A post that does decent in terms of reach, likes, and shares, you can, typically, turn it into, what I think, is a good ad.
Tyler: Yeah, ads will definitely be the point of ... That's the point of no return. Once we get a base of content, a small following, we'll start hammering out ads. We'll start hammering email. At that point, we'll kind of know if it's going to fly or not. We're going to do it on pre-order. For our ad costs, with our email automation, with our small group, and existing content, if our ad costs are out of whack and we can't get a CPA that's even close to what we want, it may not be a product I'm willing to bring to market, just because where I'm at in my career. I think I've got a unique angle with this. We'll find out.
Felix: When you're doing these things, where you're posting questions into these groups ... Correct me if this is aligned correctly or not. Your number one goal is really to build a relationship with the community. Then, they'll reach out to you. It'll be easier to invite them into your group when that comes around.
Felix: The second important thing for you is to get data for copy, for putting out the offer, for the content of the ads, content of the emails. Then, what about data for product development? Or is the product development too far along, at that point, for you to ask questions to and inform to the product that you're building?
Tyler: I've already been doing that.
Tyler: We've got multiple, we've got like 10 or 15 prototypes. I have different designs and things like that. I've already done this where we say, "Which ski would you ride? A or B? A is a green pair, B is a pair that looks like it's real wood?" I've already been starting to do that.
Tyler: We still have options with finishes. That's going to be an ongoing thing, through the summer, for sure, that I'm going to do. Even when we launch, stuff like that, it's never too late. Let's say we launch with the natural wood look. Let's say the launch is soft. Guess what we'll do. We'll launch a limited edition, all black. It's never too late in the process to try different things.
Tyler: I'm always a big fan of, especially with the new brand, is going small. I'm not going to make, as I do with golf clubs, 10000 pairs of skis. I'm going to do a micro launch of probably, I don't know, 200 pairs, 100 pairs. Just to see if the offer has legs, see if the product does well, get reviews from real customers. It's like a micro launch of a brand.
Tyler: I'm confident in the product. I know the audience well. I think we'll kill it. But I also do what I think in a, hopefully, in a way that's conservative but also gives us good intel.
Tyler: With the Facebook groups, one thing to say, too, it's one thing, maybe, we're missing of the conversations, if I'm posting a group of skiers, like 20000 people, and they're just commenting on stuff I'm posting, for five, six months, then, I'm like, "Oh, guys, I know you've heard me talk about it but the product I've been talking about ...," they've already seen me post multiple times so they kind of know me. Then, I post an offer for the new product or ask the admins to post for me. It seemed to go much better versus me being not engaged in a group, coming out of the blue, and be like, "Yo, I just started a ski brand." You know what I mean?
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler: I do that, too, with our agency. I'm in some multiple Facebook groups. I'll drop some totally free video content that gives value. People are like, "Oh, that's sick."
Tyler: Someone will tag me, an email expert or something, but they've already seen 10, 15 posts from me because I've been engaging, therefore, their trust level's higher. Same concept. Not to really simplify it but it's just, it is kind of simple. You're having conversations where your customers and people you want to get to are real conversations. Then, when you have something they care about, or that you want them to care about, you already have more of a relationship than coming in cold and coming off sales-y. They already kind of know you. They've talked to you or, maybe, seen your posts. It's just a different dynamic of how do you actually use groups to do that, on top of the other strategies, too. You know what I mean?
Felix: I heard you mention this a couple of times now about the idea of testing the offer out, seeing if the offer has legs. What goes into an offer? Obviously, the product is there, but what else do you, what other variables can you play with to test if it, to test offers against each other?
Tyler: Yeah. This is probably the most important thing. We've had offers that I thought were absolutely going to crush it that don't do well. Then, we've had offers that I thought were do good, just absolutely do amazing. Really, a good offer has allowed us to scale really well. I think it's really probably the most important thing.
Tyler: Any audience is going to react different to an offer specific to them. I can't make a blanket statement. But one thing, in particular, we look for is bundling. We can bundle multiple products that make sense. It's harder to compare prices. If you have one widget where someone's like, "I think that's 20 bucks," and it says 24, they may not like it. Whereas if you have a bundle of them, where it's harder to price and it looks like a better-perceived value, that's a really good way to break a price comparison is to bundle it so it looks like there's more value. Typically, there is.
Tyler: Then, after the bundle, we like to really, really spend money. It's not crazy money, but time, money, and energy on really good photos. We'll go to kind of crazy lengths to get every single angle. Some of our products are like 25, 30 photos. We actually do them on black so they look more premium.
Tyler: The next thing we do, other than bundling and photos, is we make sure we've got videos that are just kind of unreal. I do spend, typically, per product ... For this product launch ... Again, this is not big money but ... probably spend 1000 bucks on photos, probably spend two grand on a video, and then, I'll do the copy. But I'll do a long form copy piece on the product page. That's kind of the basis there. We'll try to have a good bundled offer. We'll have sick photos. And we'll have legit videos.
Tyler: It gets easier as you get more established, you have more reviews that come in. We've got some products that have 2000 plus reviews. That just makes the snowball effect better. That's how I look at an offer. It's bundle, perceived value, photos and videos, and the copy. It's that whole combination. It's, really, it's the emotional reaction you get from a client or customer, too. You can say all that stuff but if it doesn't resonate with them, with all those pieces, it may miss.
Felix: I want to break this down a little bit.
Felix: You mentioned that photos is one of the keys. You took a lot of photos, a lot of angles covering everything that they might want to see.
Felix: You mentioned videos. What are you trying to capture with the videos?
Tyler: Right now, we've been, mostly, doing text overlay with super high-end motion graphics, on the video.
Tyler: But, really, it's the key points that I've learned over the last five, six years of customers. Why they buy? What they're looking for? Just talk about those benefits, in the text.
Tyler: That's just really it. it's like using ... The sexiness of the video builds trust, it doesn't sell the product. It's the copy that, typically, sells the product. That goes to our full circle. The copy sells it and the email, too.
Tyler: We kind of went away from a lot of talking head videos. A lot of people are watching videos without volume on. Now, most of our stuff is text overlays, where we use copy to what we think is the best way. Then, just have a video that's so well done, that it creates instant trust in the brand versus we could get away with more basic or raw videos earlier days, Facebook. Now, it seems that we're, especially on product pages, specifically on our Shopify product pages, you can go look at any of them, those videos are more polished than some of the stuff that we'll use on Facebook for an ad.
Tyler: We try to marry those two, as well as to have ... Know your platform. I think product pages, that's a representation of your brand, have to be super clean, super simple, get your point across in copy, but be professional. Whereas, your Facebook ads may be more native to Facebook. There may be actual users using the product or more raw.
Tyler: It's definitely a mix of that. But, really, got to have a good ads person or email person to test those offers to really ever find out. You'll never know until you ask for someone's order until you get that product out there and try to get payment.
Tyler: One thing, I did have a product that I made that I thought was going to be the best product in the world. It's called Beer Putt. It was like beer pong for golfers. It got like 1000 shares on Facebook. Everyone's like, "I'm buying it, I'm buying it, I'm buying it."
Tyler: When I went to launch it, it was crickets. We sold like 400 but I had made like 2000. I thought it was going to sell in like two minutes. It was one of those a-ha moments where it was the first product. I was a little cocky. This was a year or two ago. I think two years now. I thought anything we launched, people would want. But I assumed they'd want it because I liked it.
Tyler: What I should've done is what we do now with everything. We do a pre-order, with a smaller quantity. And really see, when their credit card's out if they're going to pay for it.
Tyler: That's really kind of like the full offer and then test it to make sure it's legit. Then, use ads and emails to see if you can tweak it. I was able to make the offer effective but it was at a price point that didn't make sense. Therefore, that product wouldn't work, right?
Tyler: I could've cut out a bunch of stuff. But I tried to sell it at a higher price point, for that specific product, that it just didn't fly.
Tyler: I wish I'd saved a lot of time and money on that, by doing what we do now which is pre-order ahead of time.
Felix: Right. There is really no good proxy for sales. It could get tons of shares and lots of engagement, even people saying that they'll buy it. Sometimes if it's just like a novel product, they might sound interested in it but, when it comes time to put their money down, they won't do it. You found that you've really got to take that pre-order.
Felix: When you are offering this pre-order, is there any kind of additional value that they get out of pre-ordering rather than just waiting until the product gets released?
Tyler: We haven't really gone crazy with incentives to pre-order. I pretty much try to put it out there with our best offer, as we would sell at Evergreen. I don't want to try to do, make it too incentive driven. It's not like a regular offer when it's not on pre-order.
Felix: Because that doesn't tell you the truth about the product.
Tyler: Yeah, maybe that's why.
Tyler: I hadn't really thought about that, to be honest.
Tyler: For example, we've got lefty wedges on pre-order, right now. We get hundreds of comments a day, saying where are lefty clubs? We only sell right-handed clubs.
Tyler: So, I said, "You know what?" Finally, I did make a lefty driver years ago. It didn't do well, did really poorly. But that was after a lot of comments, back then. I said, "We're bigger now. We've got a lot more customers, got a lot more reach. Let me try one more time."
Tyler: Every post, where's the lefties? Where're the lefties? We had thousands of people tagged in our email system saying they want left-handed. I was like, "You know what? I'll do a pre-order, with a regular offer, for a lefty wedge set," which is one of our most popular products.
Tyler: I did it. I made the minimum amount that I would make, which is 300 sets, about 900 clubs. I thought it was going to do well, or thought it wasn't going to do well. But, to your point, it got a ton of, it's been getting tons of comments, tons of emails, "Where are the clubs for lefties?"
Tyler: We launched it on pre-order to test it. We still only sold 170 sets out of 300. It's been months. I'm glad I did that so at least I'm getting, at least half of them sold before we get the product. But I'm so glad I didn't do a full production run. We will not be making more.
Tyler: But this is why we do it. I got the money, the clubs aren't here yet but I've got almost half the order sold. I'm glad I did. It's going to be a struggle to sell the rest. But it's not like I did 2000 sets and now I'm like, "Oh, man. Everyone said they wanted it."
Tyler: So, social media and stuff are just that, it's social. The people that are sometimes most vocal are not even your customers or potential customer. That's really a hard thing, I think, to decipher when you're ... Even for me now. But early on, I was like, "Oh, man, this is going to kill it."
Tyler: You never know until you say, "Hey, here it is to buy." That's your moment of truth if they're going to rip out their credit card or hit PayPal or whatever you've got. Actually give you money for what it is.
Felix: Right. You mentioned bundling. I think that's an important point about how one of the downfalls for a lot of businesses is that they become a commodity. People just price shop and it's a race to the bottom. Have you found that, by creating an offer where you bundle multiple products together, you can break out of that kind of vicious cycle of pricing to the bottom and actually remove yourself from the price shopping, I guess, conundrum? Can you give some examples of bundles that worked well for you and also the ones that just didn't seem to work?
Tyler: With golf clubs, it's made it a little different. But we bundle wedge sets together. So, it's multiple wedges versus one. It is a sick deal but it's a full set versus the individual wedge. It sounds so simple but it's ... Not only does it help us with perceived value, but it is also a better set that they should actually have for their game.
Tyler: What was the other thing?
Tyler: Then, the whole role of the value's better. Or say our average order value is higher, right?
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler: For me, we sell very few individual clubs, unless they are insanely unique. We've got a 72-degree wedge which no one makes. It's an insane flop shot club that no one is willing to make. We make it. That's the only club, because it's so unique, that I sell stand alone. Everything else, we pretty much sell as a set, for those reasons.
Tyler: Again, I wouldn't be able to tell you, in your industry, what offer works. I would spend a lot of time, if your ads aren't working, quote, unquote, or email's not working, on your actual offer, trying different bundles, trying different things together, trying different price points with different things. You'll be shocked at what actually, what your audience wants. You don't know.
Tyler: That's a big thing as a takeaway, too. As an owner, you want to think you know it all and you want to have your hands in everything. I try to have my hands in nothing. Kidding. But I try not to worry about stuff that doesn't necessarily matter. Your audience is the only people that matter in deciding which offer's good or not. Give them the options so they can attempt to buy it. See which one does better. It's really that simple. I would spend more time doing that than messing with ads and email, testing all these different audiences and different tactics.
Tyler: If you get your offer dialed in, you could run that Evergreen, too. That's where a pre-order to success is a better method for us. If I start a pre-order, let's say it's just absolutely doing terrible. We've got no traction. Guess what. I'll switch up the pre-order, throw in another product, change something about that offer, and then try again. If that's the ticket, if that's what's going to happen this winter, if we've got our ... I'm going to have this ... I don't want to tell you what it is yet. A specific first offer attempt that absolutely does nothing, you'd be shocked what a couple of tweaks can do to find a CPA that works or having it work in email. Even if you're doing all the right things and engaging with people, if your offer sucks, man, you're going to have a hard time.
Felix: When you are tweaking the offer, are you making wholesale, change everything at once? How big of a change should you be making to test?
Tyler: I'm always a big fan of massive change. I used to be obsessed with micro stuff.
Tyler: We added videos. I have a video guy who does our videos. I try not to even make edits on the videos he makes. We did this with one video. I knew this was going to be a mistake. But we obsessed over every single detail. It was very similar to the video we ended up with. Version one to version 20 was almost the same video. You could run version one versus version 20 in, let's say, ads or email and have, it'd probably have no difference. But if it's a whole and completely different style of video ... Let's say one's a studio video versus on course versus user versus owner, a completely different style or totally different offer, it's got to be dramatic. It's the only way to see if it's going to work.
Tyler: Everyone wants to get so analytical with stuff. But you should know, just have a sense. A lot of what I do is just look at our total revenue for the day, compared to what our ad cost is. That gives me a gauge of ... I don't try to look to micro, return ads daily. I just look at total spend, total revenue. That gives me a pulse, after doing it for so long, if things are going well or if they're not. Then, we adjust.
Felix: Thank you so much for your time, Tyler. So, bombtechgolf.com, B-O-M-B-T-E-C-H-G-O-L-F.com is the website.
Felix: I'll leave you with this last question which is what do you feel has to happen this year for you to consider this year a success?
Tyler: It's already been a great success, honestly.
Tyler: We're up a ton in the e-com brand, for BombTech, sales wise. I feel like we've leaned up quite a bit with the just production, in terms of our costs and in a really good position to scale profitably. I feel really good. I've been able to reduce my hours in that business to, roughly, four to six hours a week which has been really freeing.
Tyler: Then, I've also started the agency which has been about a year-long project with, actually, my first employee from BombTech which has been really cool to have a whole other income and business. We've got about 12 clients now. Our goal with that, we're almost halfway there, trying to get to a hundred K a month, helping other e-com brands with their email marketing. That's ecomgrowers.com. That's been a whole different challenge. But to have another business that's been successful and very profitable, helping other brands has been a whole different thing. It's kind of reignited my love for e-com and brands and doing all that.
Tyler: My goal for this year, too, is to do more podcast interviews. Just make more content that I want to make and, hopefully, help more people.
Tyler: If anyone wants to email me and just talk about e-commerce, I'm always up for that. I love that stuff. Sully, S-U-L-L-Y, at ecom, E-C-O-M, growers.com. You can email me directly. I've helped out guys just finding 3PLs, emails, finding ads guys. Whatever you guys need help with, if I can help a little bit, 'cause it was a long and difficult journey, but to have some success and enjoy it, it's really, it's a great place and not have to work for someone else.
Tyler: I'm very fortunate. It's already been a success. Really glad to be on the show.
Felix: Thank you so much, again, Tyler.
Tyler: All right, brother.
Tyler: Thank you.