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Ep. 57 - Moonglow’s Omnichannel Approach: B2B, DTC, and Unique Experiences with Julien Plouffe

Julian Plouffe is a Canadian living in Miami, Florida. He is the co-founder of Moonglow Jewelry. 

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, he decided to build a brand and start his own business with a product that he believes in.

In his spare time, he loves trying different restaurants, cocktail bars, the best pizza I can find, snowboarding and surfing. 

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [0:59] How Julien end up founding Moonglow
  • [2:22] Moonglow’s co-founder and banter about the French language
  • [2:59] How were Moonglow’s first months?
  • [4:33] What was Moonglow’s strategy in keeping in touch with customers?
  • [5:09] Advice: Get an Ipad to get customer’s emails in the field
  • [5:37] How did attending trade shows and going wholesale affect Moonglow?
  • [7:04] The advantage of the wholesale approach and partnerships 
  • [8:01] Chase sharing his moon phase and his birthday
  • [8:36] The moon phase calculator and its awesome benefits
  • [10:44] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.link/honest
  • [11:33] Moonglow’s marketing mix
  • [13:07] What things will Julien change in hindsight?
  • [14:39] Biggest wins of Moonglow so far
  • [15:17] What percentage of Moonglow’s gross revenue gets invested back to paid channels?

Resources:

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 Transcript:

 

Julien Plouffe  

You progress and ultimately come up with great ideas. You listen to everybody around you and try to surround yourself with really smart people

 

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 coming from beautiful Miami, --I cannot say the same about Columbus, Ohio, though-- is the co-founder of Moonglow Jewelry. Welcome to the show, Julien. How are you doing today? 

 

Julien Plouffe  

Doing great. Thanks for having me.

 

Chase Clymer  

Alright, so you are the co-founder of an awesome jewelry company. 

 

I also will talk about this later, but I found out what my moon phase was right before this podcast, so we can get into that a bit. 

 

But before you started Moonglow, what was your journey? How did you end up owning your own business and doing this?

 

Julien Plouffe  

So before I owned Moonglow growing up, my dad was also an entrepreneur. And he had a unique business. I was basically selling different products at fairs and events and I grew up in that business essentially. 

 

So I started selling products at different fairs and events right of school. And I was selling products that were good, but I didn't really totally believe in them until my dad came across this product. It wasn't called moonglow. 

 

But it was an artist in Canada who came up with the concept of jewelry that features the picture of the moon from the date of your choice. 

 

So a birthday and anniversary... So it hits on astrology and was also really nice jewelry and we were selling it at fairs and events. And I knew that this was a cool product that could be branded. 

 

And that's something that my father didn't really do. Brand[ing]. He was selling... He was more into the selling portion and not really building the brand portion (of entrepreneurship), which is fine. So, I basically took it over. 

 

And at that time, it was a pretty small business. (We were) just selling at fairs and events and... We can get into the story a little more, but that's basically how it came up. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Well, that's fantastic. So now you are the co-founder. Is your father the other founder? 

 

Julien Plouffe  

He is not. He is not. So, he found the product and then my business partner was working from my father's company at the same time. 

 

So we basically merged and started Moonglow together, so... Her name is Aurelie Dudziak. I don't know if you can pronounce that. She's originally from France. So (it's a) French name. And I'm from Montreal. I'm Canadian.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh. And I failed French in high school. So of course, I can't say that. (laughs)

 

Julien Plouffe  

(laughs) It just comes off the tongue easily.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, yeah, I know. Alright. So you cut your teeth in doing these events and these trade shows and then you found a product that you believed in, and you started to focus on it. 

 

Now, what was the first couple of months or a year like, with that product? Were you guys doing the same model of going to these events and these trade shows to try to build out that first group of customers? What was that like?

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, yeah. So, basically it wasn't even [on] trade shows. It's really fairs, and festivals, and maybe some Comic-Con. So, we basically kept doing that. And we also had a couple of salespeople that did the same thing. 

 

So they were going to different events. So we would do one in, let's say. in New York, and they (the team) would be maybe doing one in Iowa or California. So we kept doing these events essentially. 

 

And then what happened is... We built a website as well because, obviously, it was a great way to show the product and people were able to feel, and touch it, and buy it on the spot and then people would want to buy it again. 

 

So we built a website. It wasn't that great at the time, but it [did] the job. And then what happened is we got into wholesale

 

We had, I believe, a retailer who approached us who really liked what we were selling and wanted to carry our brand in their store. 

 

So we did, and then I came across trade shows to continue to expand or sell in the wholesale channel. So we attended a trade show and started to build out the wholesale side of things. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So I want to go back to doing all these fairs and stuff. Now when you were there, were you grabbing emails and any other thing you could do to try to keep in touch with those customers?

 

Julien Plouffe  

Not as much as we should have. to be honest. We tried a few different things like grab emails on paper, but then sometimes you couldn't see people's handwriting. 

 

And then we would try to import them. and then they were wrong. And then they would bounce and stuff. So, that was before we decided to invest in an iPad. But yeah, we would try to keep communication with those customers.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. So if you could go back in time and do it all over again, you'd be like "Day one, we'd have an iPad and a forum where it couldn't be screwed up?" 

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, yeah, exactly. 

 

Chase Clymer  

So you hear that everyone. If you're thinking about going out there and trying the strategy of going to fairs and whatnot to display your products, make sure that you can get the email the right way and the iPads easiest. 

 

We do that actually when we do meetups. We did the 'write it down on a piece of paper' once and I was like "I can't read half of these."

 

Julien Plouffe  

(laughs) Right.

 

Chase Clymer  

Then when you get the iPad, they put it in themselves. It's so easy and you automatically get it, so it's great. 

 

So once you found out about this wholesale and this trade show element of it, How did that change the business for you? Is that something that you weren't considering?

 

Julien Plouffe  

I wasn't really considering it, no. I thought that... At first, the vision was "Well, we're going to continue to do these events and we'll do more events. So we'll hire more salespeople. We'll dominate this niche industry." Which is totally fine and actually I think it's good to get your product in front of people. 

 

And obviously you're seeing that now with omnichannel brands and everything. But at first, it was really... That was the plan but then I realized the value of a customer, especially in wholesale where our retention rates are very high and the reorder rate is very high. 

 

So I said, "Huh. You can sell a couple of pieces to one customer or you can have one wholesale customer.” That's also essentially... We call them retail partners because it really is a kind of a partnership --not in a legal sense but the brand and sale sense-- 

 

They sell your brand, we sell them the product and people see it in their stores. They do well in the stores and they keep ordering sometimes for a long time. 

 

So we have some customers now that have been with us 6 - 7 years and have invested in fixtures and their stores and really have a permanent space for us in there. But that really changed the business definitely because it's like a whole other revenue stream for us. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah. And then, it's not to mention there's the... It's almost hard to measure just the marketing that you get from having your product to be in other people's stores. That's something that I don't think a lot of people realize about doing wholesale. 

 

A partnership is literally like you said, it's amazing. So these people are also spending their marketing dollars to bring people into their stores. There's going to be a lot of growth that comes from approaching that, but it only makes sense for certain products at the same time.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, only (for) certain products. But yeah, it's really helped the brand. And like I said, it's been really good for the retailers as well because it does... It is a unique experience for their customers, Moonglow. 

 

Because they are looking up dates, and moon phases and people are really interested, and it's selling quite well. So it's a win-win, essentially.

 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So let's go back to that. When I was doing the pre-show stuff, reading the notes that you shared with me, I went to the website and I found out my moon phase, which just makes a lot of sense now.  I was born on a full moon, I have learned. 

 

So that answers a lot of questions that I've had. So if anyone's wondering what day that is, it was December 12, 1989. So yes, I'll be turning 30 or I will just have turned 30 when this podcast comes out. But yeah, no. That's a super fun interaction that you can have with a brand and figuring out the product. 

 

So you have that on your website now. When did you get it up there? Did you see like an uptick in sales once you built that in? I think that's just such a cool way to get a little more information out of your potential customers before they choose to purchase from you.

 

Julien Plouffe  

When you say up, what do you mean there Chase?

 

Chase Clymer  

So on the website, you can check the phases of the Moon and then you could shop those products right then and there. It's a fun little interaction that you can have with the brand.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, yeah, That is essentially... Everything that we sell is jewelry that features that phase of the moon. So having that calculator portion is... I knew it was something special because people really associated with it. 

 

Because when they give you a date, it's quite personal. They're giving you their birthday. And sometimes it's hard to get that, in person. Some people don't want to give you that or they'll give you another date. 

 

But yeah, it essentially builds relationships. We're always trying to... So, it's (the moon phase calculator) essential to buy the product. You have to put in a date. And people are very curious about it and what it signifies. 

 

But it's a cool advantage because it does create a unique user experience. Also [it] can be a little tricky. We're constantly working on it. Making it as simple as possible because it's not quite as easy as just adding to cart a hoodie or a normal product. 

 

There's a date selection and all these other things. So there are more steps to purchase. But I think if done right, it can create a really cool user experience.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. And then I think this just goes hand-in-hand with one of my other favorite tactics is figuring out a creative day to get your customers’ birthday. 

 

Because then you can send them an awesome email on their birthday. Just create another interaction with them.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah. We just came up with an idea, actually, to take the dates and then, create that email or text interaction with them, based on the date. That's actually... I guess now, it seems like a no brainer, but we just launched that not too long ago. And we're gonna keep working on date-specific marketing because it really wasn't something we had touched on.

 

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Chase Clymer  

So let's talk about that. So we talked about the beginnings and what you're up to, but let's talk about now. How has everything changed now? What are you guys doing? I'm assuming you're not just doing wholesale and you're not just doing events anymore. What's your marketing mix these days?

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, so actually, the largest portion of our revenue comes from our own Ecommerce store, Moonglow.com and then the second largest revenue channel is wholesale. And we still do, obviously events and trade shows and things like that. 

 

So marketing, it's really we try to do as much as we can. As far as digital marketing, Pinterest, Google ads, Instagram, Facebook… 

 

We really try to be in as many channels as we can, online as well as working with influencers, and trying to do cool things with the retailers online, as well, and trying to do collaborations with other brands. 

 

And right now, we're trying to work with other brands, as far as may be getting on their email list, on our email list and as well as making products together. So that's something I'm working on now. 

 

Chase Clymer  

That's awesome. Yeah. I think it's always a good idea to hedge your bets and not like spend all your time in one channel because in the unfortunate instance of that channel go[ing] away, your business (also) goes away. 

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And as well as SEO and yeah. So we really try to diversify, like you said, so we're not super reliant on one channel. But obviously, there's a couple of channels that dominate. But things change very quickly. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, yeah. I have a few more questions for you here before we wrap up. So when you guys were launching, and you were doing these trade shows, and you getting into wholesale. 

 

I'm assuming if you think back now, what's something that happened in the business that you wish you could go back in time and either correct the course or tell yourself, "This is probably a bad idea?"

 

Julien Plouffe  

So it's funny, right? When you always look back, you always cringe at the work that you did. So, one of the things we wouldn't do is like our branding was totally off. I am not a branding person. 

 

I'm more of a sales/finance type of guy and our branding was just everywhere. The colors were not consistent. It was really bad. But in the end, it still worked and it was still selling. But I definitely would have had consistent branding. 

 

Now I understand the power of that. Really having the same messaging, the same colors, as opposed to colors all over the place, which is what we used to do. 

 

It was like the flavor of the week. "It's going to be pink this week. Next week, it's purple." (laughs) I would definitely keep the messaging, and the color, and the photography, and then just the brand, pretty consistent.

 

Chase Clymer  

That's hilarious. And I know what you mean, just through the iterations of all the sites we've worked on, or even our own personal stuff for the agency

 

It's hilarious, and it slowly starts to get more and more fine-tuned. I think it's just like an evolution of the business where the brand starts to become its own.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, exactly. It's really fun to watch that.

 

Chase Clymer  

So, on the flip side of things, what was something during that growth phase where you know, it just clicked. What was one of the biggest wins for you guys?

 

Julien Plouffe  

One of the biggest wins was we had a couple of years that really had tremendous growth, especially online. 

 

So really with digital marketing, like Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and Google ads. All together, mixed with the wholesale and everything. 

 

All the exposure we're getting, we really just kept scaling and as much as we could profitably, and that was a huge turning point. So, really doubling down essentially on what works, I think, is a good strategy. 

 

Chase Clymer  

If I could ask you --not like specific dollars and cents-- but was there like a percentage that you guys were investing back? Or a percentage of gross? How did you come up with the number that you guys were investing in your paid channels? That's something that I hear all the time. 

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah. For me, we looked at [our] total spend on digital marketing. We usually try to bring it around, maybe 30% spend versus revenue to keep things healthy.

 

 So yeah, we really just look at it and say "Hey look, we'll invest as much as possible, but let's try to keep it always around 30%" 

 

Sometime we would go over. (About) 40% to 50%. But the idea was to get people on the site and we knew that sooner or later, they would buy especially given the holidays. So sometimes that was part of a longer-term plan. 

 

And we also looked at the metrics, obviously. Customer retention rates, lifetime customer value, and everything. 

 

So once you figure all those things out, then, you can maybe allocate a little more budget, but trying to keep it around 30% of digital marketing spend versus revenue, as a whole, is what I try to stick by.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah, thank you for sharing that. Because I know that's something that's always weighing on some of the younger brands as they're going through these fun little avenues of spicing in the paid advertising. 

 

Julien Plouffe  

Mm-hmm. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Well, before I let you go today, I want you to A, plug the brand because it is cool. I love the idea behind it a little bit more. So, let people know where they can find out more about the product.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah, definitely. It's called Moonglow Jewelry. It's @moonglowjewelry on Instagram and Moonglow.com online or just google Moonglow. It will pop right up.

 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And if there's anything else that you think would be helpful for our audience, if you want to let them know.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Yeah. I think for us, it's really having a good team and really listening to your team. There are a lot of team members that have really, really good ideas. So it's really not me, it's really the people that I surround myself with. 

 

We all come up with ideas together. And I think that's how you progress and ultimately come up with great ideas. You listen to everybody around you and try to surround yourself with really smart people.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think that that is an amazing piece of advice right there. I always try to befriend people smarter than me. What was that thing? If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room?

 

Julien Plouffe  

(laughs) Yeah, yeah. I don't know who said that. But yeah, I've heard that as well. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Hey, Julien, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

 

Julien Plouffe  

Hey, thanks for having me, Chase.

 

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!