Duane Brown is the founder & head of Strategy of Take Some Risk Inc., a digital marketing agency. He uses his curiosity for people and love for people watching to run better marketing campaigns for clients.
Duane has been called an international man of mystery and digital nomad by friends. He has lived in 6 cities across 3 continents and visited 40 countries around the world.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- [1:13] What led Duane to start his own company?
- [2:36] The holiday hustle of November and taking breaks to avoid burnout
- [3:45] Campaigns, especially on Facebook, takes time to see the true results
- [5:30] What clients would be the perfect fit for Take Some Risk?
- [8:42] Working with agencies is not an employment, it is a partnership. - Duane and Chase
- [10:08] Always strive to have better relationships with your clients, whether good or bad.
- [12:03] What does Duane think about dropshipping and its get-rich-quick courses?
- [14:54] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
- [15:42] Whether it's dropshipping or eCommerce, it will always take time to experience success.
- [18:24] What other platforms does Take Some Risk explore for their clients?
- [21:45] Duane’s CRO tips and tricks
- [23:46] Always look to improve your experiences. - Duane
- Duane’s LinkedIn Page: linkedin.com/in/duanebrown
- Take Some Risk website: takesomerisk.com
- Take Some Risk’s PPC Audit Guide: takesomerisk.com/ppc-audit-guide/
- Duane's Google Shopping Course: udemy.com/course/google-shopping-course
- Microsoft Interview: Take Some Risk: A business model that pays off
- DigiDay: DTC companies aren’t reliant on digital ads anymore
- Visit gorgias.grsm.io/honest to get your second month free.
- Visit simplr.ai/honest to start your free seven-day trial.
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Give suggestions and ideas until the client realizes that we have their best interest at heart. Their success is our success because as they grow, they're going to want us to test other channels or take on more responsibility or they just have money to invest in a new product or hire someone.
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 I'm bringing to the show, Duane Brown. Welcome to the podcast.
Thanks, Chase. I'm happy to be here.
Awesome. Cool. So Duane has one of the coolest agency names in the world, Take Some Risk. I love that so much. I just wanted to get that out there upfront.
Thank you. I mean, everyone either loves it or hates it. I mean I've never had someone tell me they hate it, but I assume that's because they don't want to offend me. So, so far, it's all been positive.
Awesome. So Duane is the Founder and Head of Strategy over at Take Some Risk. And before that, he had an awesome, awesome few years. So let's talk about what led up to starting this company. What were you doing?
Yeah. Before this, I worked and lived in Vancouver, Canada. On the West coast. I'm originally from Toronto, Canada, and right now I'm based in Montreal, Canada. So, I was working for a tech company out there.
And I just wasn't happy and realized I could make the company another $2 to $3 million a year but my pay won't really increase. I won't really be super satisfied.
So I quit my job and started the agency. But even before all that, as friends say, I've been around the world and back.
So, I lived in London, England for a couple of years, I lived in Australia for seven months working for a big telecom down there, moving between Sydney and Melbourne. I'm just traveling the world.
I've been to 40 countries, six continents, I've seen most places people want to see in South East and North Asia, with the exception of India and China. I just love to travel. I'm always trying to figure out what my next country is going to be.
This is gonna sound really a first world problem, but I didn't go to a new country this year or last year. So I'm trying to figure out how do I get to a new country next year that I've not been to and take a proper vacation?
When you have your own company, you tend to work more hours than you normally think you would.
Oh, absolutely. I'm finding myself burning the midnight oil all the time and I need to stop sometimes.
Yeah, it's hard. This weekend, I worked all weekend. Having lots of eCommerce clients, Black Friday is next week, we need to make sure everything is just perfect so you can each have an amazing Black Friday and amazing November.
Absolutely. We were talking about this a little bit in the pre-show and from an agency perspective, or just a consulting in general, November is the most you'll work all year for most agencies that are helping people in the eCommerce space.
We're recording this right now. --he's right-- so next Thursday is Thanksgiving, next Friday is Black Friday and I'm sure that after this call, we'll have a million other things to do. But thanks for making time in such a trying time.
Yeah, well, I think it's important to still do... Whether it's a podcast or have a drink with a friend, --I'm going off with a friend for pizza tonight-- So even though we work tons, I still make time to see friends and do things you need.
You do need those forced breaks, otherwise, you end up just working all the time.
Yeah, that's no good. You'll get burned out super fast. I just came back from a wedding. My cousin got married. It was a fantastic little trip this weekend. But I'm ready to put my head down and knock out all these campaigns for our clients.
I agree. Yeah. 100%. We have a lot of campaigns. (In fact), we need to put stuff for the Black Friday messaging. We have a client in San Francisco and they want to get a new account a little bit, which makes things a little bit touchy.
Because if you want something (and) they don't like it after two days, they just turn it off. So you've got to have a conversation today about, like, "What are we going to do this week and next week? And can we not just turn off things even if you don't like the results after two days? Because two days really doesn't tell you anything..."
Yeah, I mean, if we're going to go nerdy with the Facebook stuff, it's so much different these days than it was even this time last year.
Things need to marinate a bit longer to really get some results. Honestly you just gotta test it and you gotta trust the algorithm. As smart as any of us consultants are, Facebook’s algorithm is 10 times smarter.
Oh yeah. 100%. We've got to... We are based in Canada. We always have a couple of Canadian clients. And this past weekend from Friday really until yesterday, we had a 27% sales climb between Facebook and Google.
And before that, I think we're sitting at maybe 4% or 5% in total, so it was an amazing weekend. But other people probably would have turned off campaigns. )But we're) like, "We're just going to hang in there. We're going to hang tight and just see how the week goes because (this is) the best target we've ever picked. The creative is really good. The copy is really good.”
“We spent the last six months just testing everything in Facebook from our messaging to our audience, to the different placements, --Facebook versus Instagram as a placement-- even just testing the fact that the clients got a sales page. If we have the sales page and the traffic, we send to the sales page, what is the best traffic for the sales page?"
And so I'm glad I let it just sit. I'm glad I just told the client to "Hang tight, it's going to be a great month because it was an amazing weekend." It was shooting three-pointers all-day long.
Awesome. So that leads up to my first question here. How do you decide what businesses that you think that you guys can help? What are those indicating factors?
It's like, "I think you guys would be a good candidate so let's start putting some paid money into Facebook and Google." So, what are you looking for?
Yeah. I was talking with a client or potential client based on the West coast in Washington. It's a bike shop that does mountain bikes and bikes you take out to the country back. Out to the backcountry.
And one of our rules is we don't want clients that are assholes, basically. That's our rule number one. We don't want clients that are going to email us at 3 AM because they had an idea and they want to execute it the next day. We want clients to understand that A, we don't work 24/7.
Even if I worked all week, --and that's because I want to catch up on client stuff-- I want to get ahead on certain clients stuff. But just dumping more stuff on our plate because you had an epiphany on the weekend, it's not a healthy relationship, because it's not like we work for you, we work with you. I think that's really important for clients to understand.
Outside of that, can you pay the bill? As funny as it sounds, if we had one client not pay one bill last year... I know friends who have 3, 4 or 5 outstanding bills from last year and they're probably not going to get paid.
And so making sure there's a solid foundation (from) the business (so) that we can get paid is really important because we are a business as well. We've got to make a profit if we're going to stay in business.
And the last one, which is what most people only think about first is, can we scale it? Can we help you out? Is there room to make this business bigger? Sometimes we’ll tell the client, “Your current agency is actually doing a pretty good job. Here's a couple of things we might do differently based on our own experiences.”
“But it's a great account and there's not much value we can add unless you're going to launch a new division or maybe you want to test out a new channel.”
Sometimes clients come to us and they're on Google, but they're not doing Microsoft. So if you're in America or the UK and you're targeting those countries, it makes sense to sometimes test out Microsoft because it's a great channel.
We usually... The return on ad spend or how much money you get back for every dollar you invest is a lot higher on Microsoft and so not testing that out is a great opportunity.
For some of our clients that have nicer products, Pinterest has been a great channel. We have two clients that are doing a great job on Pinterest right now because their products lend themselves to the platform from a visual perspective. They're really beautiful to look at.
So it's really figuring out, "Can we help you and add value in some way?" (We have) a client (that) we took on in April. Their agency was using what Google calls SMART Goals.
SMART goals are basically a goal's way of trying to say that a goal happened on your website. But a goal might not be a sale, it might be someone watched a video or they just clicked on a button or they went from one page to another page so they're not always transactional goals, which is really important for what we do.
So sometimes, we'll have a client that's just (wanting) help to get their analytics in order and make sure measuring the right things that are going to help grow the business overall. But those are the three things we look for.
It's like, "We don't want any assholes, we want to make sure you can pay the bills and then can we help you in some way (to) actually make this a better business whether it's (to) grow a new channel, (to) fix what we think is broken or just help you have better analytics, so you can actually track things in a better manner."
Oh, yeah, those are all things I agree with. You know what, I think that's the cool thing about this show is we can just be honest and you ripped it right off the start.
You're like, "Look, man, You gotta be... I want to work with you if I like working with you. Because I'm excited about those emails, I'm excited about those phone calls. I'm excited about the opportunity to try something new with a client."
So, just having a good relationship and having trust is going to be a 10 times better relationship for any sort of contractor or consultant with a client than... I think that there's a mindset shift, where sometimes people need to understand that it is a partnership.
It's like, "You're coming to me as (I'm) the expert, but you're ignoring me?" That's a weird dynamic.
Yeah. It totally is. And the client in San Francisco that I was talking about, they're not so much ignoring us. They're just like unless we say things the way they would have done it, they basically ignore that advice.
But everything else is like, "Yeah, that sounds great. That's how we would have done. Okay, let's do that." And it's a new relationship. So it's just one that we're gonna have to chip away at it and (see if it) holds steady to our point of view.
We just keep on trying to give suggestions and ideas until the client realizes that we have their best interest at heart. Their success is our success because as they grow, they're going to want us to test other channels or take on more responsibility or they just have money to invest in a new product or hire someone.
So we're not suggesting ideas that just spend money, we suggest ideas that we think will actually work based on working on ASOS or Jack Wills in the UK or working on big, fat, fashion brands here in America.
Yeah, I think I just want to clarify though. We're not ragging on every client, we're just saying sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease and it's always the one that is in the back of your head. 99% of the time, we are having amazing times working with our clients, helping them reach their goals, and it's perfectly fine.
But when you get two agency owners together, they immediately go to the discussion of terrible clients. So I apologize to all of our listeners.
Yeah, totally sorry, guys. Yeah, I don't mean to rag on clients whatsoever. I think that every agency will always have that one client that's a little prickly and that's just the nature of the business.
It's no different than friends that are lawyers or engineers and they consult, you always have that one challenging client and it could be, for lots of different reasons. But you know, all the rest of our clients, even in that client, we love the client.
We just want to have a better relationship with them.
Absolutely. And honestly, at the end of the day, it's usually not their fault. It's just no one has told them, "Hey, there's a better way to do this." And sometimes, you can definitely make bad clients into good clients.
We've done it once before, I believe we can do it again. It's just having a conversation, and having proper onboarding, and setting expectations with the relationship.
Yeah. 100%, Every client has come from... It's kind of like dating, right? When you date someone new, they bring their baggage from the past relationships and it's no different from a client.
They bring the baggage from the last agency or consultant or freelancer, --whether that's positive or negative-- and sometimes you just gotta say, “This is how we think about things and why we think about it.”
And I've often wanted to think, especially this year, that sometimes I've got to say things 2, 3, 4 or 5 times not because the client didn't understand it the first time, but (because) we're all busy. We all have lots of things on the go.
Even the best of clients will forget something we talked about in the summer, and we just need to bring the conversation back to whatever it is we talked about and say, “We talked about this but here's why it's important.”
Just over-communicate to the point that everyone remembers what we talked about when we talked about it.
Oh, yeah, it's just all about communication. And that's it. I do want to move on from this topic just because I got another one that popped into my mind (while) talking about this. Talking about things that are controversial, I guess.
Yeah, I think dropship(-ping) is obviously different than direct-to-consumer. Our San Fran client is a DTC shoe brand, super popular. Some famous people wear them.
So definitely, trying to cut out the middle person and go direct-to-consumer, I think, is good. It's not exactly the same, but it's kind of like catalogs back in the 80s.
You'd send somebody a catalog and you order directly from that company, whether it's like the Sears catalog in Canada would have been the big one when I was a kid in the 80s. And so I think that's a great way.
Dropshipping is a bit of a challenge because, yeah, there are definitely tons of YouTubers and courses and programs trying to convince people to buy their course or program and to be a millionaire.
But most dropshippers are never going to make this a full-time job or turn it into a business just because there's just so much competition and everybody's selling the same product. It's very commoditized.
We do have a couple of clients that do dropship, but go into the website, you never know it was dropship and it's not 100% dropship. It's usually, maybe half of their inventory is dropshipped. The other half is stuff they hold inventory for so it's a mixed bag, just like the different brands they work with.
So I don't think dropshipping itself is a bad thing. I think it's about how you approach it, how you put together your website (and) present it. Being Canadian, Shopify is obviously a very proud success for us as a Canadian and as a country but you don't want lots of people on Shopify, dropshipping.
That's probably not great for their business model, because if everyone stops signing up for paid accounts and paying them money, how much business would that take off the table for them? Is dropship(-ping) 50% of account signups? 75%? 25%? No one really knows because they don't separate dropshippers to non-dropshippers.
But after that, I often think about, if all the dropshippers stopped doing dropship on Shopify that weren't successful, how much would that affect Shopify? Because they've got offices across Canada, they have offices around the world, they employ thousands of people.
So I don't think dropship(-ping) is bad. I think we just need to stop peddling the get-rich-quick scheme because most people will not get rich or quit their full-time job and really get back to the idea of like, "If you're going to do dropship or any business, build a nice website, think about what your brand looks like."
Think about, "Okay, if I'm going to invest money into these areas, which areas I'm going to invest money in?" So you can actually build a business.
Let's be honest today. All of your customers are going to have questions.
What are you doing to manage all those questions? Do you have a helpdesk for your business?
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Absolutely. You said everything I would have said there. I was reading a Twitter thread. I'm a huge...
I follow so many smart people on Twitter and I'm so down that rabbit hole nowadays and I really wish I could remember this guy's name --I'm gonna try to find it for the show notes-- but he was talking about how long it took him to find a successful niche within dropshipping, and also the amount of time it took him to learn Facebook and Instagram advertising the right way.
And so, I believe, it took him about 6 months of playing around with Facebook and Instagram ads before he figured it out how it works and how to build a funnel the proper way. And then he said, "I tried maybe 10 or 15 different products before I found one that hit. Honestly, I put in hundreds of hours before I got $1 back on this endeavor. I'm not complaining about the process. You can still find success there but the learning curve is absolutely there and I believe it should be there. Because I had to put in the work to actually make this work."
Yeah. That's what it is. I mean, a lot of people don't realize how much work it is, so lots of people think --even in what we do in marketing-- it's like, "Oh, I can do that. Just put up some ads, whether it's Facebook Ads or Google or whatever and it will just work."
And I'm like, "We make it look easy because myself, personally, I've spent... This is year 13 of me doing this. Like I said, I've worked around the world --at the opening-- and worked on a lot of big brands. And so I make it look easy because I've done this for a long time. It's no different than if you hired a lawyer or a doctor. They've spent years honing their craft and it's definitely a lot harder than it looks.
And there are days where like... I told one client this summer, "I'm stressed about your business, not because I don't think you'll survive but it's probably one of the hardest Facebook ad accounts I've worked on in a long time because nothing I was doing would work."
And this is the client we had a great weekend for on the weekend. But it just took months of just staying in the race --if this was a marathon-- until we found success.
Absolutely. And it's funny because we've got clients that are all over the place and you'll try the same thing with a client in almost the exact same space and you won't see the same results. And it's just... That's how broadly different the audiences are for every business. It's so unique.
We had a potential client which would be like "Oh, we've got a friend who does a similar business to us and we share information. If they would have come on board and you run both counts, is there some sort of discount?
I'm like, “Well, no. Because they're a separate business. They're a separate LLC. Unless you're going to pay their fee, I've got to treat them like a separate company with invoices and proposals and stuff, because they might have a slightly different product scope or just the scope of products they sell. In some way, (we got) to make sure that we have the right strategy for them versus what we might do for you.”
Absolutely. It's all over the place when it comes to paid advertising. So, nowadays, there's more than just Facebook and Google. There's Pinterest, there's Snapchat.
What have you guys been playing with? And what do you think are the up and coming channels that people might need to start thinking about to diversify where they're spending their money?
No, totally. I was at a conference in New York, speaking last week, actually. And so I was talking with the people from Google. And I'm like, "Yeah. I spent most of my day with Google and Facebook. That's still where I spend probably 70%, 80% or 90% of my day, depending on what day it is.
But we still make sure we give time to Microsoft because Microsoft makes sense for a lot of our clients from return on ad spend perspective. We have a couple of clients on Pinterest, so we spend time there as well. And in total, actually that we have three once we start a new client next week.
We have a couple of clients who have tried out Amazon in the past, and they've not found success, but I think it's more how they approach Amazon but Amazon won't work for them.
So, I think one client will probably retry Amazon with them in January because they tried it with their last agency and I don't think this client should put all the products on Amazon, I think there's a very select SKU/campaign (that they) should put on Amazon that would work really well for this fashion client.
80% of our business is eCommerce, the other 20% is technology companies or software as a service like Netflix, Dropbox Gmail, those are all software as a service because you pay for the software every month and you get access to the service.
But I definitely still spend a lot of my time on Google, Microsoft, and Facebook in terms of things that are down the line. I think that's always an interesting question because there are so many things that we still need to focus on the present.
A lot of people have really bad mobile experiences on their websites. As much as I love testing out new ad platforms, getting your mobile website in a better fashion is really important.
But one thing I think next year will be really big is... There's TikTok. So, TikTok is like a video ad platform. You make little short videos.
It's very popular with the under 25, but about 31% of their demo are 25 and above, and so if you're going after late-stage millennials or late-stage Gen Z or anyone who's basically 25 to 35 or 25 to 40.
TikTok might be potentially an instrument and platform if you're going to have a product launch next year or you have products geared towards a very young demographic. We've not done anything on Snapchat or Snap as it's called now.
But it's something we might test next year with a client because they've got shopping ads now on Snapchat so it's very appealing for our eCommerce clients.
So I'd say a lot of people are probably gonna spend time on TikTok next year Snapchat, more people are going to do Pinterest and then from there, it's just a question of, what makes sense for your business based on all your customers on these platforms that it makes sense to test them out.
Absolutely. That's the greatest way to think about it. Because I know... We both brought up Pinterest 2 or 3 times on this, but if you're selling products and your customers are majority men, you're not gonna have a good time on Pinterest at all.
Yeah, it's a very particular kind of people who are on Pinterest.
Awesome. Cool. So before we go here, it says here that you have some cool CRO tips and tricks for eCommerce businesses that you'd like to share with our audience.
Yeah. I think it's always important to do A/B testing in your store and test some things out. It's always the little things that we find get overlooked because you're just so busy trying to run your business.
And so one thing we always tell every client is, "Every six months, ask some friends just to sit down and go through your store as a customer and find out where the areas for improvement (are)."
So for example, one client we have, they had a pop-up on their mobile experience, and you couldn't exit out of the pop-up based on how the pop up was oriented.
And so just getting rid of that really helped improve their conversion rate, because people would get annoyed and leave but these people now would not get annoyed because they don't have that mobile experience.
And then the other thing we always say is, "Test out your product page, both where the information is and how you structure that information because how you structure that information really determines whether someone's going to convert or not."
You want a product page that people can easily see the images, people can quickly see that there are reviews for that product or for your website as a whole.
Reviews are a great way to help build trust quickly and people look for reviews (before they) decide if they're going to buy a product or not.
And the other thing is if you're on Shopify Plus or Magento and you have access to your checkout experience, make sure you use something like Hotjar which is a tool (that is) a heat map and video record your checkout to understand where people get stuck on my checkout and why they're getting stuck on my Checkout.
Because if you understand why they're getting stuck, you could potentially change that issue and get more people to convert not just from paid (ads) but from people who come from organic search, people who come from an article you had in a magazine or the New York Times or something.
So we're always telling clients to "Look at your check out. Look at your product pages. See where there are issues and friction and figure out how to change those issues and make them better."
I love it. Thank you so much. So is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience before we go?
Yeah, I think, a big thing going into next year really is to never assume that you've got a great experience. Always be looking at working on your experiences. (Be) open to improving it. You can always do a better job.
You'd always do a better job of improving the traffic that comes to your website. You never want to rest on your laurels or success you've had in the past because any ad platform, especially, can make a change tomorrow and wipe out a campaign that has been really successful for you.
So you always want to continue to test your campaigns, your targeting, your creative and always make sure you've got 3 or 4 winners that are working for you so that if something happens, you can have other campaigns pick up the slack for you.
Absolutely. Duane, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
No thanks, Chase. I loved it. It's great talking with you.
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.
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