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Ep. 60 - $2.2 Million In Just 2 Years: The Story of CROSSNET with Chris Meade

Chris Meade received his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Film, Video and Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University. While studying filmmaking, Chris began his own film & photography company, SeaMeade. Chris moved to Miami in 2017 to begin CROSSNET, the world’s first outdoor and indoor four-way volleyball game. 

In less than a year, CROSSNET has flooded the market and is now being sold by dozens of top retailers in the United States such as Walmart, Target, Academy, Gopher Sports, and Flaghouse. 

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:18] How Chris and his co-founders came up with CROSSNET
  • [3:10] CROSSNET’s gross sales prediction for 2019
  • [3:47] After coming up with the idea, what did Chris do next?
  • [5:13] How long did Chris spend on product revisions?
  • [5:28] How long did they build the website before launch?
  • [6:39] Get feedback and investment from people other than friends and family
  • [7:09] How did Chris do their ads for CROSSNET?
  • [8:25] Gorgias ad: gorgias.link/honest
  • [9:14] CROSSNET’s reason for pricing
  • [11:10] CROSSNET’s BFCM strategy and numbers
  • [13:41] Chris’s site conversion tactics for CROSSNET
  • [15:14] Shopify Apps that CROSSNET uses for email marketing and automation
  • [16:46] Chris raving about CartHook carthook.com

Resources:

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Transcript:

Chris Meade  

So constantly be your biggest voice of criticism. Always look for feedback. Ask your friends, ask your family, ask anybody "What is wrong with my site?" And try to make improvements daily.

 

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, where we're dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. 

 

I'm your host Chase Clymer, and I believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

 

If you're struggling with scaling your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. Now let's get on with the show.

 

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I am your host, Chase Clymer and today we're doing another in our Founders series. Welcome to the show, Chris Meade

 

Chris comes to us from CROSSNET Game. Well, what's the actual title of the business? I guess.

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. (laughs). It is Chris from CROSSNET. Crossnetgame was the only free space when you're going to get an Instagram account. So, we branded everything @crossnetgame since we launched the company.

 

Chase Clymer  

But the company is CROSSNET?

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, correct. Yeah, CROSSNET.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So for those that aren't in the know about this awesome sport... 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah.

 

Chase Clymer  

...per se. Let them know what it is that you guys sell and where the idea came from.

 

Chris Meade  

So we created the world's first four-way volleyball game. So it is literally just what it sounds like. It's a four-way volleyball net, they intersect and there are tons of different uses for the game. 

 

But essentially how it came to be was our friend Mike, which one of me and my brother Greg’s childhood best friend, came over one night on a winter break. (He) just graduated Northeastern with an engineering degree. (He) refused to get that 9 to 5 Job. 

 

He's like, "I want to be an entrepreneur." We're like, "Alright, let's try to make it work." So, we stayed up all night and we're just writing ideas down on a piece of paper. Most of the ideas were pretty garbage. 

 

And about 300 ideas later was a four-way volleyball net. We quickly did a Google search, tried to find anything on the internet for a four-way volleyball net, and nothing came up. 

 

So quickly, the next morning, we woke up and we went to Walmart, (we) bridged two nets together and got a manufacturer out in China and here we are two years later doing over $2 million dollars in sales. 

 

Chase Clymer  

That's wild to me that you guys were just like, "We need to come up with a good idea. Brainstorm." 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, we lived and grew up in a farm town in Connecticut. Super, super small town. If you want to go to the movie theaters, it's almost an hour’s drive. 

 

Gas stations are half an hour away. It was a really boring winter night and we're like, "Let's just hang out, watch ESPN and come up with a new idea.

 

Chase Clymer  

That's fantastic. And then I just want to point it out for people that didn't catch it because you were talking a little bit quickly there. The company is 2 years old. 

 

Chris Meade  

Yup. 

 

Chase Clymer  

And you guys just closed out Black Friday, Cyber Monday for 2019. I know this is going to come out next year in 2020, but what are the projections looking like for gross sales this year?

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, so for gross sales this year, we are looking at... Actually, I just received an order about 25 minutes ago, our gross sales for 2019 should be $2.2 million.

 

Chase Clymer  

So from 0 to $2.2 million in 2 years. From the idea to this is a real business per se. (laughs) No one can argue with that. 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. 

 

Chase Clymer  

So, let's go back to the beginning. So this is gonna be a fun one. So you guys got this idea, you've realized it was good. And then you found a manufacturer to help you with it. 

 

From there, you've got a product now. You have no market. You have no audience. What are you doing?

 

Chris Meade  

Yep. So we got a manufacturer to create the four-way volleyball game. They sent it over to us. We immediately tested it out, (but the) product would not stand up. This issue happened, this issue happened. 

 

So, we went back with about 5 rounds of revisions to get what we thought was a sellable, good product-market. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was working on learning Shopify. 

 

This was the first time I was really using Shopify. I went to film school. (I'm) not a programmer. (I'm) really wasn't too tech-savvy in designing websites. So I learned Shopify from scratch. 

 

So tons of learning lessons I've learned over the last 2 years building the company, but we built a pretty good website. Probably now it looks terrible compared to where we're at right now.

 

 But we started getting some good content and just went for a launch. And nothing happened. (laughs) Nobody bought a net. It was a really sad launch. And we're like, "Alright. Something's got to give." 

 

We go to the beach, 300 people lined up to play and they stare at it. We finally got some really good content and ran ads on it and traffic started coming overnight.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, that's amazing. So you did all these revision rounds? How long was that part of the process?

 

Chris Meade  

That process probably took about 8 months to get a really, really good product. Finalized, that would stand up (and) work functionally. And also, for us to design the packaging as well.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And then how long did it take you guys to build the MVP of the website and just say "It's good enough. Let's launch this."

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. Pretty much throughout that time frame. The one thing that most entrepreneurs will know is that for you to launch your site, you need to have some pretty good content. If not, it's just going to look really like a skeleton. 

 

So, when we kept getting newer and newer models of the game, we'd always make sure to go out and get some really good photography and video. So once that 8 month period, we had a pretty good website that we’re comfortable launching.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And then so what was the launch strategy that resulted in an amazing zero? (laughs)

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. (laughs) Essentially, we had just been hyping it up on our own personal pages, growing this little CROSSNET Facebook group. And we thought, "Hey, we had..." Our friends all loved it. Everyone was having a good time. 

 

And we thought everyone would support it. It was a $150 product, which now we've learned is very expensive for Ecommerce, people are usually flipping $10 - $30 products. So $150 was pretty pricey. 

 

So, we hit launch. I think maybe that day, we got 30 site visitors. It was not too impressive.

 

Chase Clymer  

Cool. So I got two things from that I want to pull out. One, --and this is for any entrepreneur out there-- your friends and family are going to be so nice to you, even if you have the dumbest idea in the world. 

 

Chris Meade  

Yep. 

 

Chase Clymer  

So you need to get feedback from real people that you don't know. 

 

Chris Meade  

Exactly, and your friends and family might not actually pull out their checkbook, even if they've been telling you they're going to the whole time. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, yeah, absolutely. And then the second thing that I wanted to say was... "Oh man, I'm now drawing a blank. 

 

Chris Meade  

(laughs)

 

Chase Clymer  

It'll probably come back to me. Alright, so you guys finally... You got the site launched, nothing's going on. 

 

You go to the beach and you get a bunch of this content and then you start doing ads. Are you guys doing the ads yourself? Were that trial and error, too? How was that?

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, tons of trial and error. A lot of lessons learned. But essentially what happened was we started the company with only 1 net and we quickly realized if we could get more nets out into the world, we would create a similar response to what happens when we go to the beach. 

 

Whenever we set this game up, whether it was 2 years ago, or if I go do it in 20 minutes after we finish talking, I will get a crowd of people staring at the game, because they've never seen a four-way volleyball game before. 

 

And the way the game works is it's four square rules which are mixed with volleyball. So it's a free-for-all elimination style, every man for themselves. You play to 11 points and you win by 2.

 

Chase Clymer  

So awesome. I want to play this game.

 

Chris Meade  

It's a good time. So the more nets --we knew-- we could get out into the world, the more like traction and buzz we could get and start really getting some momentum. 

 

So, we sent out nets to influencers and also people in the volleyball community that we knew actually use the product and had a good time. And then we started really having content that we can monetize from.

 

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Chase Clymer  

So I remembered what I wanted to say which was where you guys established your price point and it was more difficult. And I actually applaud you for doing that because lower-priced products, you have less of a margin...

 

Chris Meade  

Uh-huh.

 

Chase Clymer  

...to where you can hardly afford to invest in marketing and still be a profitable company. You can hardly afford to invest in people to help you grow your business as well because your margin is so razor-thin. 

 

Chris Meade  

Exactly. 

 

Chase Clymer  

So having a product where you have a healthy margin,  --$100, $200, or $300 product and what have you-- may be your margin is 80% but that 80% is made up by the brand value and having something that people like and having a brand behind it. 

 

That's how you get away from charging more. And then you get to have the ability to hire people to help you or invest in growth through paid strategies.

 

Chris Meade  

Exactly. Yeah. And it was a lesson learned. We did not start at $150. We started with $100. We thought about... We knew our production costs, we knew our shipping costs. We were like "$100 seems feasible." 

 

But then our whole goal, besides our Ecommerce channels, also had our game sold in stores as well. 

 

So we quickly learned that wholesalers needed a margin. And we forgot about that when we priced at $100. So, we had to bump it up to $150 to work in margins for wholesalers. 

 

And we saw that the conversion did not change too much. People who wanted our game are still going to buy it. And then $150 gives us room to discount or provide upsell... Excuse me. Not upsells but the motivation for customers to actually purchase. 

 

Make it from a Facebook ad to an actual impulse buy they need.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah, that's amazing. So let's talk about now. We just had Black Friday, Cyber Monday

 

Chris Meade  

Mm-hmm.

 

Chase Clymer  

So pullback. What was your strategy last week? Where were you guys... Where were you spending your time? What were you investing your energy in?

 

Chris Meade  

For this Black Friday, you're saying? 

 

Yeah. 

 

So yeah, it's been about almost a full month of strategy going into this Black Friday. We knew what we did in 2018. (laughs) I think I was looking at the numbers for Black Friday 2018, we made $6,000. 

 

And back then that was cool. But where we're at right now, that was laughable for how we did this Black Friday and Cyber Week. So we had a... Were (being) sold on Target.com so we had a huge push. Target offered us to be one of their doorbuster sales. 

 

There are not many doorbuster deals that Target offers so having CROSSNET, one of the hundred products that were selected was really, really crazy. 

 

So, there's a lot of push to Target.com, but (we) also pushed to our own .com these we make more money on our own website. So I had tons of email newsletters created. 

 

We have a subscriber base of almost 70,000 emails at our base. We're constantly selling to them providing them value, making them feel like they're missing out by not playing what is really a fun game, and then also spiking up our Facebook and our Google ads and also Instagram and Twitter ads as well.

 

Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. And then so are you allowed to share with me the numbers that you guys did this year? 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, we did about half a million dollars in 4 days. 

 

Chase Clymer  

That is amazing. So a little bit more than $6,000

 

Yeah. (laughs) Just a little bit. 

 

What did you guys end up paying in paid media? If you don't mind me asking.

 

Chris Meade  

In those 4 days, I want to say less than $30k. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, that's amazing! 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. 

 

Yeah. And then I'm assuming a lot of this was coming from your email marketing?

 

Yeah, a lot from email marketing and a lot of people just... We run Facebook ads throughout the year, we were running the same ads over and over. We have a really high-quality video of Olympic... Olympian athletes playing the game

 

So people are seeing it in their newsfeed. There are millions of views, thousands of shares, so people are constantly seeing it. And then it was at that Black Friday, Cyber moment. "Okay, it's time to finally buy."

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. Plus, I'm assuming there was a deal going on.

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. And we did have a deal going on. It wasn't too much. It was $15 off, but it was what our margins allowed us to do. And yeah, it went really well. We're really proud of what happened. 

 

Chase Clymer  

No, no, I would be proud of that as well. So, another thing that I want to talk about you mentioned here in the notes was how to optimize a site for conversion. 

 

So what are some of the stuff that you guys are taking into consideration with the choices you make on your Shopify store?

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. So one thing I've learned, and I've been a big advocate of this to any entrepreneur I talk to who's creating a website or business. Create a lead capture funnel by snagging an email in any way possible. 

 

There are people that... There are probably thousands of customers that we didn't capture early on in our business that we could still be selling to this day. So, I probably lost tons of money by not capturing those emails. 

 

So if you're spending money on getting people to your site, you (should be) doing everything possible to collect their email. 

 

And then from there, I really... I love that we had a flow of emails that go out to our customers when we get them into our system. 

 

So, they're offered a discount code. They're then offered a reminder to use that code, and then an email telling them how much fun they [would be] having in a cool video about how they should be playing CROSSNET. 

 

So they're constantly getting messages, sales and also value to ultimately convert. And those touchpoints, we did not have an early on.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I'm a huge believer in the welcome series and making sure that you're making that connection and giving value. Honestly, sometimes just explaining what the company is and what the product is, that's helpful to the customer. 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. 

 

Chase Clymer  

What are you guys using to run your email marketing?

 

Chris Meade  

So we were using Privy, which was a very affordable Shopify app. And we just switched over to Klaviyo. We're going to be fully operating on them in 2020. So we're transitioning right now from Privy to Klaviyo.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. Klaviyo is a baller. We’re Klaviyo Gold Partners over here. And if you were one of our clients, I would have got you on Klaviyo, the first thing. I'm not gonna let you sign unless you agree to do this because it's gonna make you money.

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, we use Privy because we are a 100% self-funded company, just three of us literally strapped a bunch of cash in our bank account to create the company. So, everything and anything we do is typically Lean

 

So Privy was a much affordable solution for us at the time. But now that we're... We've leveled up several levels in the last 12 months. So it's time for Klaviyo. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, yeah, no, I agree there. I think that Privy is a fantastic product. It definitely solves for that small business. I think that especially now where they have the email capabilities, it goes into a place in the market where Mailchimp fell out

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. For real.

 

Chase Clymer  

So I think that it's an amazing product. But like you said, once you level up, you're looking to step your game up the automations and stuff, the level of finesse you can get with Klaviyo is awesome. 

 

Chris Meade  

100%

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Speaking of apps, we've had Privy on the podcast before and we've also had CartHook on the podcast. So we've had their CEO on and he was obviously singing praises. 

 

Chris Meade  

Cool. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Let's hear it from your end.

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. I love it. We just implemented it about a month ago. And our checkout I mean essentially had obviously a lot. You know how it works. 

 

But essentially what it does is it takes our checkout from a 3-click checkout where you have to type in your shipping, and billing, and then your credit card, to now just being 1 page. And at a $150 price point, there's going to be some hesitation. 

 

There's hesitation. Now, I just bought concert tickets about 10 minutes ago and there was hesitation on a 4-step Ticketmaster checkout. So eliminating that question mark of "Oh, should I buy this later? Or should I even buy this?" has been huge. 

 

We implemented it right before the holidays, which was great. And we've seen our conversion increase almost a full percentage point, which in 2020 will be $100,00. 

 

Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. And now have you guys even gone down the rabbit hole of doing upsells?

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, so we have upsells you could purchase. So when you do buy one CROSSNET, you could buy an additional one $125 which is about $25 off. 

 

At that point, we justified the discount because we've already paid the marketing to get that purchase. So we are pretty much making tons of profit off that $125. And then also we have product insurance. 

 

We offer product insurance on your net. If it doesn't come to your house safely, we will 100% refund your purchase and make sure you're a very happy customer. So it's a nice $5 upsell and we end up making some good money off of that

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yep, I love that stuff. And you know what I really enjoy small skew lines for clients just because then you get to really think about the funnel and think about how to sell just the flagship product or products. 

 

And it's a lot more just streamlined of an approach. So I just think that's it's fun. It's a different type of challenge. 

 

Chris Meade  

Exactly. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So hey Chris, before I let you go here, first of all, let's get the URL again, just for anyone that's interested in the product because it is a super cool product.

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. crossnetgame.com. A combination of four square and volleyball. Set it up indoors, outdoors, grass, beach, anywhere. I guarantee it will be the most fun you've had in a long time. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Awesome. And then before, before I let you go, is there anything that we haven't touched on today that you think would be valuable to share with the audience? 

 

Chris Meade  

I will share it with the audience. Constantly be looking at your analytics and look at your conversion. Don't be afraid to make tweaks to your website. I meet a lot of entrepreneurs who just are not constantly looking at even the smallest things. 

 

I go on my website every day and I'll find just the smallest little tweak whether it's adding a bit of space here or putting an image here or moving a logo around and be constantly making those changes. Because if you're noticing it, there's going to be a pickier customer out there who's not buying from you. 

 

I met with somebody today like, "If I can't trust your website, if I don't think your website looks good, I'm not going to give you my money." So constantly be your biggest voice of criticism. 

 

Always look for feedback. Ask your friends, ask your family, ask anybody "What is wrong with my site?" And try to make improvements daily.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I see that all the time. Especially with newer businesses, they let their... Your site is your first impression so sometimes... There are arguments, "Well, the design doesn't matter." Well, it does to a point where if your site looks bad... 

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah. 

 

Chase Clymer  

...how am I supposed to trust your business? 

 

Chris Meade  

Exactly. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Hey, Chris, dude, thank you so much for coming on the show today. You know what, I would love to have you back around this time next year just to see what your 3[rd] (year) brings for you guys.

 

Chris Meade  

Yeah, I would absolutely love it. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Cool. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show.

 

Chris Meade  

Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

 

Chase Clymer  

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We've got a lot to think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available in the show notes as well. 

 

If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect. Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!