Tracey Wallace has a really distinct journey. Starting with working at BigCommerce, teaching others how to build an online store by interviewing experts. She then decided to take the leap into building her own business, Doris Sleep, which sells sustainable pillows.
Today, Tracey talks about how she launched a bed pillow company while having a full time job, planning a wedding, selling a condo, and buying a house, all at the same time. She walks us through exactly how she built out the business plan. We'll also dive into the economics of bed pillows and the sleep industry –– and why foam has dominated since the 70’s, and why it's long overdue that we let foam products live in the past.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- [5:05] Being transparent about the tough parts of building a business
- [6:35] Why not to chase “get rich quick” schemes
- [15:20] The biggest mistake Tracey made in her business
- [15:58] Alternative marketing techniques to social media
- [20:15] Why use BigCommerce?
- [24:05] What is headless commerce?
- [29:55] Approaching your content strategy
- [34:20] Getting backlinks
- [36:42] Networking for success
If you’re enjoying the show, we’d love it if you left Honest eCommerce a review on Apple Podcasts. It makes a huge impact on the success of the podcast, and we love reading every one of your reviews!
My goal is to not have people actually land on my homepage. I want people to land on those product pages because they're a lot closer to checkout when they're there than they are when they're landing on my homepage.
Welcome to Honest eCommerce where we are dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners.
I'm your host, Chase Clymer
And I'm your host, Annette Grant.
And we believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.
If you're struggling to scale your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us. visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more.
And let's get on with the show.
On this episode of honest eCommerce, we welcome Tracey Wallace, the founder, and CEO of Doris Sleep, a sustainable bed pillow company.
Hi, everybody, welcome back to Honest eCommerce. I'm sitting here next to Annette Grant in Columbus, Ohio. And today we welcome another founder to the show, Tracey Wallace coming to us from awesome, weird, Austin, Texas. Welcome to the show, Tracey.
Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Awesome. So you've got a really unique journey. So you went from BigCommerce and then pivoted out from there to now owning your own brand and being the CEO and founder of Doris Sleep. So, I'm sure that there was a big process there, but kind of walk us through that journey.
Sure. So I worked over at BigCommerce and really in the technology industry... I worked in the technology industry for 10 years over at BigCommerce for about 4 and a half of that and I was their global editor-in-chief. So (I was) running all content. Website content, case study content, blog content, white paper content. If there was a word or video, I probably had something if not almost everything to do with it.
And a lot of the reason why I really ever took the job, I guess, four and a half years ago was... My grandfather started a business back in 1956. He had come back from the war and college and was --at least as the lore goes that I'm told-- he was walking down a backstreet of East Texas, found an old broken down cotton gin, and went back with his pickup truck later, picked it up, fixed it up and started a company. Today that cotton company still exists. It's also expanded to a pillow company.
And it is just the family business that I've grown up on. I mean, it's paid for my college, for the roof over my head. It's given my mom and my aunts and my brother and my cousins all jobs. It was my first job working out in the very hot Texas heat putting cotton through a picker which was not fun, but very character building. (laughs) Which is great.
So I kind of always wanted to, one start my own thing but 2, I wanted to educate other people on how to build something that wasn't just a one-hit-wonder. Something that would actually build a legacy for them that would have their granddaughter in the future telling an old lore story that may or may not be as romantic as I might make it sound.
And a big part of that was really diving into the platform, really educating people on exactly how to use it, as well as how not to fall for some "get-rich-quick" schemes, essentially how to really build real brands. And about three and a half years into that process. I was like, "Alright. I need to stop telling people how to do this."
I was very honest with people. I’ve spoken to a lot of events, written a bunch of books, and I was very honest about, "Hey, I don't do this. This is not my world. I don't do this. I just have seen their view and talk to the people who do."
So, all of my advice, everything that I'm talking to you about comes to you through the lens of --these are the most helpful tips that I've curated by talking to and interviewing-- people who are making more than 10 million in annual revenue through an online store. And a lot of people were typically really pulling chill with that. And for me, I just wanted to become a practitioner.
That's great. So wait, weren't those 10 million-plus dropshippers you interviewed? (laughs) Yeah, Chase and I talked about that a lot on the show.
Yeah, You mentioned a few things there. Building a real company, building an actual brand and this "being honest" about it. I think anytime people put on a front and try to present their business as something bigger than it is. You can almost see right through it.
Right. Right. Well, I mean, it's being honest about it. It's also being honest about how hard it is. So when I first joined BigCommerce, I found that a lot of the educational material out there for business owners or startups --small business owners-- trying to start online stores was really gimmicky.
And it wasn't super honest about truly how hard it is. There are peaks and there are valleys. And there's probably a whole lot more valleys and there are peaks. And so I wanted to be really clear with the folks that I was writing blog content for or books for that "Hey, there will be times that you want to give up.
Listen to these people who have gone through it. Here's how you get your finances in order. Here's how not to be wooed by the next big Facebook release of something or whatever it might be..." (I'm) Really, really trying to help people understand --one or both- - that this is hard and it's rewarding.
You are one of my favorite guests so far.
Thank you so much. Because alright. I'm going to be honest now, too. That's probably my least favorite thing about Shopify. Some of... They don't do it purposely or they'd get sued.
But there is an almost an underbelly of get-rich-quick schemes on the internet where people find the platform, think that they're going to be an internet millionaire, put $5 behind Facebook ads to make 5 million... I hate that.
It's untrue and it produces this weird collection of almost like, "I'll sell you a get-rich-quick scheme course to help you get rich by selling courses of other get-rich-quick schemes." I hate it.
No, I mean... Man, I get so irritated every time I see people launch online courses about like "How To Do It: The XYZ thing I did to get to the point where I am now making 1 million a year." And I'm like, "Oh my god! You are the like .00001% of people that that's ever going to work for.
And on top of that, the reason it worked for you -- the person who's creating the course-- is because you were the only one that was doing it. Now if you have 1000/2000/5000 other people going and doing that exact same thing, it's not going to work for them the way that it worked for you and it's a waste of your money."
Yeah. And just to double down on that. Like, "This is how it worked for me." Especially with Facebook ads. They're like, I made $250,000 off this $5,000 ad." And you're like, "That's a crazy return!" Like, "Yeah, but that's also probably the thousandth iteration of that ad when they finally hit that unicorn." No one talks about all the ones they did before that.
Right! Right! Right! Or how much money they lost. For instance, so I ran my first Facebook ad in January. And this is somebody... Again, I've been writing about everything eCommerce for a very long time. Researching it, interviewing people. Technically, I should know how to do this. (laughs) And I launched Facebook ads and then forgot to turn them off...
Oh no... Oh no.
Yeah! And I ended up spending an additional $500 that generated absolutely nothing --which I started the business late December so that early on-- that's a lot of money to be throwing at something that you are getting zero return on.
And I think that is a much more common story for people than the "I put money behind a Facebook ad it's been incredibly successful." Also though, as of 2019 even 2018, there really was not... In 2016... Maybe 2015 and 2016 and 2017, it was a whole lot more likely that you could put money behind a Facebook ad and see huge amounts of results versus now because everybody's doing it.
It's that same concept as the course that I was just talking about. Back then --2015-2016-- not that many people were putting money behind Facebook ads and as a result, the people who were putting money there truly could become millionaires. But we've passed that point. That's just not the case anymore. Now you need to go out and find the other channels that work.
Absolutely. So let's talk about you getting in this wild, wild world of eCommerce. Especially for me, I'm going to say it. I feel like the market... That the product that you chose is extremely saturated, and probably difficult sales. So talk to us about deciding on the brand that you're running now and that transition from a full-time employee to entrepreneur.
Sure. So yeah, it's funny. I was a full-time employee when I launched Doris Sleep --Which Doris Sleep is a sustainable bed pillow company.-- I was a full-time employee. I was also in the midst of planning my wedding, which happened right before I launched the store and then also in the midst of selling a condo and buying a home. I truly lost my mind, I think, the end of 2018. I don't know why I did all those things at once.
But I did and it's turned out very well, I think. But yeah, so I sell bed pillows online. The reason why I chose that product and that category may be different from a lot of the folks listening. As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather started a cotton company which is now a cotton pillow company. It's a manufacturing company. And I knew I wanted to sell what they were making.
Now they don't just make sustainable bed pillows, but I wanted to sell those. So I went my family, talk to them about it, and I became an official customer of my own family as manufacturing company because I'm lucky enough to have that connection, I suppose, and show specifically the sustainable bed pillows.
So sustainable, what I mean by that is it is recycled plastic bottle fiber. All of it made them produced in the US. So it's actually plastic bottle fiber/plastic bottles that have been diverted from landfills in the United States. They are then taken over to these two different warehouses in the Carolinas, they turn it into some super soft fiber for us, and then they ship it over to my family's warehouse where they blow the pillows to the specifications that I've asked them to and then I ship them out.
So for me, choosing those pillows are choosing the pillows really wasn't a super strategic, "Okay. I'm going to double-down. I'm going to like figure out what's trending, what product to go after, and then find a manufacturer." Instead, no. I had a manufacturer and then I chose products out of the lines that they were offering.
So that's really how I got started there. The name Doris is my grandmother's name.The brand is red because she had red hair. The manufacturing companies are named after my grandfather. But hey, why not go in this direction?
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I have a question of something that you went over there. Do you actually ship the product out? You said you ship it but I don't know if that's you or not?
They start in Dallas. So we'll ship them from the Texas warehouse that my family owns up to the 3PL. Though I have been having more and more conversations with my brother and my family, really talking to them more and really educating them on the eCommerce space in general.
Because man, if I can save the freight from that warehouse to the other warehouse and then those people shipping it out, that would be amazing. But talking to my family about "Hey, you guys. You could charge me for that extra floor space if you wanted to. My 3PL is already doing that. And I save money on the shipping as long as you guys ship out stuff every day when it comes in." And they already have folks that, one that they do that for.
So, as a result, they also have UPS and everybody else coming to them. So I'm hoping that as soon as the inventory runs out there --which might have like 40 or more pillows there so it shouldn't be too long now-- I can shift it on over to the family warehouse.
Awesome. No, that's good. And did you start with a third party logistics from the launch of your product?
I did. I did. Well, yes. So for a lot of reasons. One, I didn't want to pick-pack-ship the products myself, their pillows. I truly live in a tiny house in Austin, Texas, so I don't have anywhere to put those things.
And my family was telling me that they couldn't ship one-off, their manufacturing company. They're like, "We do bulk." I'm like, "Oh, let's talk more about this." And that conversation is going much better. But at the time, they're like, "Absolutely not."
And then on top of that, my former boss over at BigCommerce had recently moved over to ShipBob. He's their CMO over there. I talked to him --while he was at BigCommerce-- a lot about launching this company.
He was actually really helpful and being like, "Dude, you keep talking about this. I just plain don't believe you're going to do it." And I was like, "Alright. (I'm) Proving you wrong." Which is really how it kind of got started.
So he moved over to ShipBob and I just chatted with him. He got me hooked up with some of the great folks over there and now I just know their teams really well. And they're great people, so I'm excited to work with them.
Awesome. So this is a really fresh new journey, right? Launching late last year... You are business now, right? (laughs)
Yes. I'm a business now. (laughs)
All right, let's be honest with people. What's the biggest mistake you've made this year?
I mean, that Facebook ad was pretty bad. And then I did it again about two months later because I probably --like everybody else listening-- you do get wooed and convinced by all the little videos you see online or the articles you run across about. "Okay, cool. Actually, maybe if I do target this a little bit better" or I don't know, whatever you think. "Maybe my Facebook ads would work better."
For me, I have --as a result of overspending about $1000 on Facebook ads but turned into absolutely nothing-- pulled completely out of Facebook and I'm focusing really on community building, doing partnerships with a bunch of folks. Really some more old school tactics because it's not as saturated.
So putting out fires, dropping them off at apartment places. Kind of what you were speaking to earlier in terms of the pillow market being supersaturated. How do you stand out?
For me a big part of the standing out is really focusing my targeting on the folks in Texas --at least for right now-- and putting some Texas branding around it --at least in print and flyers and things that I'm getting out there and some of the partnerships that I'm doing.-- Even looking at billboards.
Because you can buy a billboard on I10, which is one of the most trafficked highways in the United States. You can buy a billboard on I10, right outside of Beaumont, Texas, which is my hometown, --which Beaumont is right on the border of Texas and Louisiana, so you can buy it where people are coming in from Louisiana driving into Texas.-- I can get a billboard there, you guys, for $1000 a month, --which is crazy because I sort of overspend on Facebook…
...and it can say, "Welcome to the softer side of Texas!" and have my logo up there. And now I have a social media campaign that I can run and whatever. And even... Just test that out. --How much traffic is that actually driving.-- My wife, currently, is the big blocker there. She's like, "Please do not spend $1,000 on a billboard in Nowhere, Texas." and I'm like, "Okay. Yeah." (laughs)
I'm going to say, I'm going to be on your side and say the story itself, the content that you could produce around the billboard would be amazing.
Right? It's cool! (laughs)
Yeah. And I'm going to say you're the first person on our honest eCommerce podcast that said anything about a billboard. So we thank you for that.
No. I mean, I think billboards are really important especially because so many people are focusing and doubling down really hard on paid acquisition channels. --I mean, billboards are a paid acquisition channel as well-- But Facebook paid acquisition, man, it's just so saturated there.
It's so hard, I think, for brands that aren't in a highly venture-backed (business). I've even had venture folks or venture investors come to me asking if they can invest? And I'm like, "No, not yet. I don't want the money right now. I want to do this my way." I also don't want to give up any ownership which is a big part of it as well. But so many brands out there are venture-backed.
On top of that, a lot of the legacy brands are really getting into the game. All of those people can outspend you every second. It's not even... It's just... You don't have that scale. I don't have that scale. Maybe y'all do. So as a result, I'm trying to figure out, "Okay, where aren't they spending money?"
I was chatting with a guy here in Austin not too long ago who was super influential and helpful in getting our voices to the level and place that it's at now. And I was telling him my billboard idea. He's also for it.
He was giving me an example that here in Austin, one of the first things that Outdoor Voices did --Outdoor Voices was located in New York City. Then they moved their headquarters down to Austin, Texas-- one of the first things I did is, there's this old rundown building on the side of MoPac --which is a busy, big highway here in Austin-- that was right next to the lake and the trail --where people go running and biking and all of that jazz-- there's this old, rundown building that --happened to have attached to it-- a billboard that was clearly viewable as you're going down that highway.
And he said one of the first things they did was, they bought that building, they painted it blue and now they own that billboard and they can put anything up there that they want. And me and my wife are riding our bikes the other day and we rode by it and she was like, "Honey, I didn't know Outdoor Voices had this year. This is so cool. Dadada." And I'm like, "That's what every single person driving by this, thinks!"
And he was like, "That billboard. Clearly, it's hard to 100% attributed to it but it was so influential. Making sure that Austinites knew that we were here and that we were doubling down on the city." And I'm like, "Man, billboards work."
Yes, that's an interesting story. Everybody check out Outdoor Voices if you haven't. They are an amazing brand that's grown tremendously, very fast. So let's chat about --because I know our listeners and myself included-- Let's talk about BigCommerce.
I'm Shopify for life, but I need to know what else is out there. So talk to us about BigCommerce and what you think. Obviously, you worked for them. So you had some familiarity. But talk to us about the pluses there that people might be interested in.
Sure. So I think some of the best... So typically, I've gone to a lot of shows. I've talked to a bunch of Shopify folks. Talk to people who have been on Shopify but switched to BigCommerce, BigCommerce to Shopify, and so on... Whatever.
Almost every single person I talked to about their eCommerce platform, compares it to marriage and they're like, "There are really good days and there are really bad days." And it's part of it. That said, I typically begin by asking people what products they're selling as well as what their familiarity is with eCommerce.
Because what I find is that folks who are a lot newer to eCommerce and don't have any technical eCommerce experience or are only selling a few products, typically like and do better on Shopify. And Shopify is a lot easier to get up and running and started. I mean, you sign up, and you can immediately begin processing payments. The way that they just have the setup done, you're in, you're using Shopify pay, right?
BigCommerce isn't like that and BigCommerce wasn't built for that. BigCommerce, their based target audience or the folks that they market to are folks who are already making at least $100K in annual online sales. And that's still pretty low. But they're really looking for the folks who are making at least a million. And that's because that's when the platforms really going to be able to work incredibly well for you.
Because unlike Shopify, where Shopify boxes you into... Shopify is just a very opinionated platform. And that's great if you're not incredibly familiar or if you don't have an opinion. Like, "Yeah. Sure. I'll use Shopify Pay. Whatever."
Large brands do not want to necessarily use Shopify Pay, they want to use whatever payment system they want, or they want to be able to build something off of API’s or they need those API's to move incredibly quickly because they have some really old legacy ERP system that they need to pull information in and out of almost real-time. There's just are the things that you can't do on the Shopify side.
For me, I guess, other than eCommerce experience, I only have a few products. So that, I guess, would have put me in the Shopify camp. But a big reason why I went with BigCommerce was for the SEO capabilities. I just didn't want that splash collections in my URL structure.
My background's in content marketing and SEO. A big part of my strategy is content marketing and SEO, which means I need to be able to get in and mess with my robots.txt in order to make sure everything looks the way that I want it to. And I can't do that over on Shopify and I can over on BigCommerce.
In fact, you asked what one of my biggest mistakes was --and I didn't know this necessarily at the time-- but I do very much regret looking back launching on the BigCommerce platform rather than just using the BigCommerce Checkout I would have... If I could redo it, --and honestly, I'd imagine that maybe the end of this year or beginning of next-- I'll move over to a WordPress presentation layer and use BigCommerce for WordPress as my checkout. And again, for me, it is an SEO play. Content marketing and SEO play there.
So I'll let everyone know. Before I was all gung ho about Shopify, I actually was a Wordpress guy.
And I built a lot of WordPress sites and I miss the WordPress blogging platform so much, compared to Shopify. It's night and day.
But with that being said, I am helping people sell stuff and Shopify is amazing at that and I understand everything you were saying about the limitations of Shopify versus BigCommerce. There's like a thing that I see go around though a bit. It's talking about Headless CMS or... Am I saying that right?
And could you kind of explain that to our listeners and heck even kind of myself? Annette's over here, all wide-eyed? She's like, "Oh, it's a term I haven't heard."
Yeah. Never. Never.
Yeah. So headless commerce is what a lot of people are really banking on right now. BigCommerce is not the only platform to be doubling down in headless commerce. It's probably maybe, the only SaaS platform but there are other players in the game like Elastic Path or Moltin or commercetools. The other one more popular over in Europe.
Headless commerce is essentially the decoupling of the presentation layer from the actual platform itself. And that is because platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify aren't great at the blogging capabilities. They aren't fantastic always at the SEO stuff, which is a really terrible way to talk about it as an expert in SEO over here. (laughs)
Anyway, they aren't necessarily very good at those things, but a lot of CMS systems are. In fact, that's what they were built for. On top of that, CMS systems like WordPress or Drupal or even things like... What is that? Adobe Creative Experience or... Man, there's a bunch of them out there.
Those platforms are built specifically, not only for SEO and content marketing, but they're built for true online experiences. And given what we are seeing in terms of the rise of acquisition costs through paid social channels, as well as legacy brands really coming in with their own money, a big part of... A big kind of piece of the puzzle, that a lot of people are betting on, is you have to provide a crazy cool online experience.
You have to build out a very strong organic traffic or organic audience acquisition channel, in order to actually be able to afford the paid acquisition stuff. Because the paid acquisition stuff is just --at this point-- it's rent, right? You have to pay for it. It's part of being online.
But how do you offset that? How do you continue to grow your base? A lot of people are really betting on online experiences on that content marketing side. Content marketing and SEO. And eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify just plain don't do those things incredibly well, at least to the level of differentiation.
They're really great at getting you up and running and being able to help check you out. But that checkout functionality, which does PCI compliance and fraud management and connects with PayPal or Shopify Pay or whatever you want, that can actually be decoupled and it can be decoupled through API.
So, even when I've talked about wanting to use WordPress as my presentation layer, I'm talking about wanting to move to a headless commerce model, where WordPress is where I send all of my traffic and I'm just plugging in BigCommerce as the checkout solution, which would use the exact same URL structure.
Nobody would know that they're being taken to a different platform. What it provides me though, is the PCI compliance, the fraud management, and the easy payment integration so that I don't have to go like install a WooCommerce instance, which is just really painful.
Yes, I would strongly recommend not using WooCommerce. Period.
Yeah. (laughs) There's a lot of information though, y'all. There's a lot of good content out there on headless commerce. I can send you guys some links to maybe include with this podcast, but that's the gist of it. And you're really seeing a lot more brands move in that direction. In particular, on the more legacy brand side.
I believe Harvard is doing some stuff with it, P&G, brands like that. But it's, One, I guess it's not really newer technology. But it's becoming more and more known. And as we all know, as things become more known and more used, often the price drops. Which again, I mean, even BigCommerce, building out an app for WordPress, which gives you that like enterprise eCommerce checkout capability but with an easy plugin and actually offering a solution other than WooCommerce. --So many people dislike WooCommerce. (laughs) That's huge, right?
And that's super, super cost-effective. Definitely worth checking out, especially if your brand is one that really thinks that content is first, that content is the most important and that the "sell" is the second part.
And honestly, I would encourage as many people as possible to think of it that way. It's super important to build community right now in order to offset those paid acquisition costs.
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You mentioned a lot of really, really cool interesting stuff there. You might want to go back and re-listen to all of that, all of our listeners there.
So you mentioned a lot about content as your strategy. Let's get into that. Talk to us about... Well, two things I guess. What is your... Not like your content strategy. Play by play.
What are the things that you considered with building yours (content strategy)? And then also what should our listeners be thinking of, if they're approaching their content strategy for the first time? What are the things they need to keep in mind?
Sure. So in building out the Doris Sleep website, one, my goal with door sleep is to rank as highly as possible for my three main key products for their keywords. So that's "thin pillow", "bed pillow" and "thick pillow."
In order to do that, I made sure that those landing --they're not landing pages-- product pages, --which are essentially landing pages-- but I made sure that those product pages are the absolute best pieces of content according to Google or according to the tools that I have, which I use --MarketMuse, Clearbit, a rough SEO research in general-- I made sure that those product pages have some of the best information on those topics as possible.
So there's a description. A product description for sure and price, but then it goes into... There are little graphics for the qualities of it, it goes into three specific sections about the actual benefits of it, talks about the benefits of recycled plastic water bottle use, talks about the return policy, has FAQs on there and then also has like those recurring reviews.
There are GIFs on each one showing the actual compression. What my goal with that page is, one, it's long, it has a bunch of content but that's because Google tends to rank things that are at least like 1000 words, higher than other pieces of content, which likely has something to do with the amount of time that people actually stay on those pages. Two, my goal is to not have people actually land on my homepage, I want people to land on those product pages because they're a lot closer to checkout when they're there than they are when they're landing on my homepage.
So on that landing page, on that product page, I need to explain the product, yes, but I also need to be sure to explain the brand. So I have parts of the story in there. I have... I re-tell things that were maybe told on the homepage in there. I have videos on there. All of that is an effort to keep someone on the page, but also in an effort to make sure that I'm ranking really, really well for those pages.
So right now, --even actually within the first month and a half that I launched-- my pages are already ranking on page two of Google for those key terms and I'm a brand new brand. I launched in December and I'm already really high.
The only reason I'm not on page one is my own dang fault. I just need to go out and get some backlinks, which mostly means doing some guest blogging on related home sites. I reached out to a few folks, I just actually need to write those pieces of content right now. I've gone through... And because I'm a writer online, I've gotten Doris Sleep added to a bunch of my bio stuff. I have other friends who are writers. They'll link over to me sometimes.
That said, almost all those links are coming from technology companies, which is great because they have really high domain ranking and rating, but it's... So that's got me to page two, but I'm sure Google is looking through all of those links. And they're like, "Okay, cool. This site's clearly trusted. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Top of page two. Top of page two. Weird. Nothing from a home site is linking to this pillow site." (laughs)
So anyway, I need to go through and get some links for that, and then that'll suit up. Other than that, another part of my content strategy is just continuing to build out my blog content. Right now I have two pieces up over there. One is a really, really in-depth piece that talks through pillow and mattress materials.
(I'm) Really trying to educate people on sustainable versus no-sustainable materials. In particular, why foam is so bad because foam is really the most used product in mattresses and pillows and it's really, really awful for 600 reasons that I won't necessarily go into here.
Awesome. That SEO strategy behind that getting backlinks. That's really top of mind for me because I've been thinking about it for our agency a lot lately.
Right. No, yeah. It's super important and it's hard to get backlinks. One of the best ways to get backlinks is guest blogging. But what I have found to be the absolute best way to get backlinks is by knowing people. So a lot of it is truly just networking. Getting to know people was really a big part of my role over at BigCommerce.
Every single week, I would make sure that I was going and getting coffee with somebody in the industry --that I did not think would say yes-- to going and getting coffee with me. And I go and get coffee and just chat with them. And then I have this monthly list of about 117 people. All of them I know. All of them I've gotten coffee with. All of them I've met personally. All of them I keep up with. That I email every single month with like, "What's your number one tip on SEO? What's your number one tip on whatever it might be?"
And those folks are able to put what their answers to those questions are. I have on there what websites that might show up on? And then the best answers get pulled into those websites. And then I let those people know when that article is published. And it's just a really good way, at least for me, one, to stay in touch with all of those people, because a lot of them will message back, "I'm in Austin. Let's grab a coffee." Whatever it is.
And my answer, of course, is, "Yes, absolutely." And then, two, it's me just constantly providing value back to my network. Which makes it easy then when I'm like, "Hey, I just launched a business. Can you please go and link this?" And all of these relevant places and pages on your site answers almost always yes.
So if you're listening and you're wondering how to make things incredibly easier for yourself or so much easier for yourself, building a network is 100% it. Making sure that you are providing as much value to that network as possible on a regular basis rather than asking for anything and only asking for things when it's super important. It's so awesome giving back if it's pretty easy.
Yeah, I mean, genuine human connection is the number one way to do business. I can't tell you how many times people reach out to our agency or the podcast and they just ask, ask, ask.
They never want to give any value to us. That's the wrong way to build a partnership. That's the wrong way to build a connection. You need to go to somebody and try to give them value first.
Right, right, right. And a lot of times that value is like really just talking to somebody. I give this advice a lot. So it was my former boss who's now the CMO over at ShipBob. When he joined the company, he filled me in, my coworker and my colleague. He was like, "I want you guys to go do this. I want y'all to get better at networking, at having these coffee dates."
And I was super reluctant to do it. I come from a small town, East Texas where I was taught that if you work hard and are nice to people, you will succeed right? And I just always, in my gut, for better or worse, really hated this idea of the cycle boys club or any kind of club. Anything where the entry was who you know.
I was like, "This is bullshit. It's just messed up. A lot of these people may or may not have worked for what they've gotten." Like, "Why is a network the thing?" Truly, it used to very, very much upset me. And then I started going and talking to all these people and --I'm also an introvert-- so that was my other thing. I was like, "I don't want to do any of this at all." Which isn't always true. But I started doing it.
And at first it really sucked, and I really hated doing it. And then over time, I got better. And the next thing I know --because I'm talking to all these people and meeting all these people-- I'm getting introduced to other people. And one of the really big important parts of going and meeting up with these people and talking to these people is not to show up there with any kind of agenda.
It's truly a, "Hey. I think the work you're doing is really cool. How the heck did you get here? Do you like it? How do you do it? Like, "Is there anything you want to be doing?" Like, "Awesome, cool. Here's what I do. Let me know if I can help you anytime in the future or if you're ever in Austin or if you're ever in San Francisco or wherever you are. Let's hang out."
And next thing you know, half those people that you end up meeting are at a conference that you're at, or I don't know, doing podcasts that you're able to get on or hosting conferences and they're inviting you to come and speak. It is truly the way things work. People like working with their friends and they like working with people who they view as hustlers. In a good way. (laughs) Somebody who hustles.
And one of the best ways to appear to be that kind of person --beyond following through on your word-- is to make sure that you're showing up. That you are actually giving people a little bit of your time which ultimately is the most precious resource that you can give anyone.
Absolutely. And I think that going back to that old adage of "Working hard and doing good work is going to get you ahead in life." That used to be true, I think. But now it's, "People are working hard and doing amazing work and networking harder than you. And that's why they're getting ahead faster." It's insane.
Just even on my side as an agency owner, the brands that we work with are brands people would probably be dream clients of other people. Those people hardly end up on our website to the content we're putting out. It's usually an introduction. It's usually from meeting somebody. It's usually from our network.
Right. Right. Right. You have to do both good work consistently and you need to be out there meeting people. And I'm telling you guys, it really can be as easy as making sure every single week... And maybe in the same way, maybe you have... Every week we publish a blog post. Cool.
Also, every week, you or everyone on your team needs to be reaching out to somebody --that you don't think will say yes-- to grabbing coffee with you. And even if you're in the middle of nowhere, make it like a Skype coffee date or a Google Hangouts coffee date, whatever it is, and hop on the phone with people and make sure that that is happening every single week.
It's going to suck at first if you're not used to doing it, but truly over time, you get so much better at it. It really helps you to talk to people. It also helps you hone in your introductory skills and truly getting to know what other people do, why they do it the way that they do it. I don't know. It opens up a lot of doors. It's truly been one of the biggest career bumps and boosters for me for sure.
Awesome. And then me and Annette are huge proponents of going to meetups. We host the one in Columbus, The Shopify Meetup. We also help out with the Columbus eCommerce meetup. You can meet amazing people there. We just had on last week, our buddy Shibo from Refersion. He met his business partner at a meetup. So...
It's amazing. Just putting yourself out there and just talking to people will do for you.
Yeah, it's awesome. Being just a little bit vulnerable pays dividends. I'll also say, some of the best connections that I've made have been not necessarily talking about eCommerce but talking about religion and politics and taxes and death. All the things you're told not to talk about.
But those are the ways that you build real friends. That's the actual goal. You actually want to be friends with these people. How can you make that happen? How can you introduce yourself in a way that's relevant? Talk to them in a way that's relevant and build real contacts. Again, not everyone's going to become your closest friends. Some of them will just remain contacts, but a lot of them will actually become friends. It's cool!
Absolutely. Well, we can't thank you enough for joining us today. There's so much awesome stuff out of this one. Is there anything else that you want to leave with our audience?
Um, anything else that I want to leave with the audience?
Where can they find you and your product and your writing?
Well, Doris Sleep is the website. So dorissleep.com and then @DorisSleep is the Twitter handle as well as the Instagram handle. And then for myself, you can find me @TraceWall on Twitter as well as on Instagram. And that's about it.
And we'll link to all that also for our listeners so they can follow along.
Well, thank you so much and get out there and network everybody.
Thank y'all so much. It was so great being here.
We can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing the truth. links and more will be available in the show notes. If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you'd like to apply to your business, please reach out at electriceye.io/connect.
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