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Unprepared Ep 69 - Systems for Separating Struggling Brands from Profitable Brands with Jordan West

Timestamps

  • [00:00] - Sponsor: Rewind
  • [00:53] - Unprepared is sunsetting
  • [01:16] - Intro
  • [02:07] - What does Jordan do?
  • [02:35] - What is Mindful Marketing about?
  • [03:42] - How did it start?
  • [05:17] - How their system works
  • [06:53] - Buying a brand of a client
  • [08:00] - Training with brands
  • [08:35] - Weighing what projects to prioritize
  • [11:43] - Why subscription matters
  • [14:09] - 3 stages of a business
  • [16:02] - Where to find Jordan 

Resources

Key Points

  • Mindful Marketing helps E-commerce brands to solve different problems including scaling, ROAS, CPA, ad conversion rate, cart recovery, and more. 
  • Mindful Marketing started with the brand Little & Lively and the agency grew from there. 
  • All of their brands are Shopify brands and they create their own products. They also buy brands that they love and take all the upside.
  • They implement their best practice for the brands they buy and buying the companies are an extension of having systems in place. 
  • Mindful Marketing works with brands by looking at the cost structure, then they bring all the marketing to their agency to reduce the cost.  
  • From ROAS’s standpoint, they bring it all over to them and implement the system. They look at different ways of ordering or check their own suppliers to see where they can save more. 
  • Subscription space is one of the things they are looking into. Ecommerce can be seasonal, but the subscription element can help manage the cash flow.
  • There are three stages of business: 1) Finding the product-market fit 2) How to profitably acquire customers 3) Figuring out cash flow.

Transcript

Sponsor: Rewind  

Hi everybody, my name is Chase Clymer, and welcome back to another episode of Unpreparedㅡan Honest Ecommerce bonus episode where we hear expert advice in 15 minutes or less. 

Chase Clymer  

Unprepared isn't scripted or edited. There are no redos. When we screw up, it's going live. That works for this show, but it's no way to run your Ecommerce business. 

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Chase Clymer  

Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of Unprepared. Before get into introducing Jordan here, I am going to set an announcement. 

We're going to be sunsetting the Unprepared series as a whole. But I have a couple more of these in the can. And I'll have a whole episode about why we're doing this in the future. But I'm just gonna get it out there now. Because why not? You know what I mean? I've been thinking about it all day. 

So anyway, welcome to the show today, Jordan West. How are you doing? 

Jordan West  

Hey, I'm great Chase, thanks. Thanks for having me. I'm one of the last Unprepared. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, you know what I mean? So in a nutshell, we started doing this as a bonus episode when the pandemic hit. And so we doubled and then tripled down on content. 

And now, things are opening back up, and I'm going to start being able to...we're gonna start being able to do events again. So we're just pushing the bandwidth over to start doing events is essentially what's happening here. 

Jordan West  

Totally makes a lot of sense. I like it. I think a lot of people are pivoting back into live events, for sure.

Chase Clymer  

So I just got an email, like 20 minutes ago from a grocery shop with the dates for the Vegas event. So I'm super excited about that. 

Jordan West  

Cool. Cool. That's great. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So for the people that are unaware, myself included, give me the crash course. What do you do? What are you up to? What's the business all about?

Jordan West  

Yeah, totally. So I own now, five, soon-to-be six Ecom brands as well as an Ecommerce agency. So really, everything that I do and live is in the Ecom world. 

It worked out really, really well for us in 2020. Having all of that and hopefully continuing on in 2021. So that is me in a nutshell right now.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. All right. So let's dive in a little bit deeper. Now, all these brands, are these brands, you know, just private-labeled Amazon stuff? Or are they you know, full-figured, you know, Shopify experiences? You know, what does the tech stack look like? How are these brands marketed?

Jordan West  

Yeah, totally. So it's the latter. So these are all Shopify brands, none of them are actually even on Amazon. 

And we create all of our own products. So mostly in, so three of the brands are apparel brands, all made in Canada. So that is all my wife's doing. So she's a fashion designer, she creates all of that. The brand down in Arizona, is again a fashion, maybe a little bit more like in the apparel space, less fashion. And that's more in the outdoor space. 

And then one of the new ones is a magazine/subscription box in the outdoor space as well. And then we've got two more fun little acquisitions on the go right now that I can't exactly talk about. But yeah, they're all products that we create ourselves. So we really believe in owning that process. And that's super important to us.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. So I hope this resonates with the audience. But I am super nerdy about what we're about...I have so many questions for you. 

So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Were you an agency first and then bought a brand or a brand first and then pivoted out into the agency? 

Jordan West  

Brand. So we created our first brand Little & Lively which is a baby and kids clothing company. We created that. And then my wife and I realized, or I personally realized I'm like, I don't think we can do the day-to-day thing together. This isn't working. 

So I was always the one that was doing the marketing. And I was doing free consulting for people. And I just really loved that. And then the agency just grew out of that. So I brought on one partner now to help with an agency. And now that is totally exploded into something beautiful as well.

Chase Clymer  

Okay, so can I guess what happened? 

Jordan West  

Yes. 

Chase Clymer  

And by the way, everybody, this is the first time me and Jordan have met. Our assistants got us in touch with each other. 

Jordan West  

Totally. 

Chase Clymer  

Let me guess what happened. You built out these amazing systems and processes for your brand, and then copied and pasted them for all the people that were coming to you saying I need help with this thing?

Jordan West  

Essentially, I mean, it was just kind of like, "Well, hey, this is what works." And then it's interesting how the agency came about, right? So we started doing that and realizing, "Oh, we're really good at this". 

And then I'm like, why don't we just buy more brands? It just makes more sense. Like, why don't we just take all the upside on buying these brands that we really love? And so that's how that all happened, they really the buying the brands is just an extension of having systems in place.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, so let's talk about those systems, you know, what's the four or five, you know, you guys acquire a new brand and you're probably running through what they have in place and implementing your best practices and mixing it into what the contractor is, and the stuff that you're already using and your tech stacks and all that jazz. 

What are those systems that you're looking to put in place that are going to help separate, you know, a struggling brand from a profitable brand?

Jordan West 

Yeah, totally. So first of all, looking at their cost structures, right? There's a lot of line items that we can go in and delete right away, especially if we bring them in-house. So one that we're looking at right now, you know, we take a look at all of what they're doing cost-wise, and like, "Oh, we don't need that anymore". You know, the $40,000, that they paid in rent last year, we don't need that anymore because we're bringing them in-house. 

I mean, that's the first place that we look. The second place is we're bringing all of the marketing over to the agency as well. So we've been fairly successful, you know, from a ROAS standpoint over the years. 

So we bring that all over to us, again, we delete that cost. And then we start to implement our systems, just you know, alone. 

So the guys down in Arizona, there's 11 employees. They're not using Slack to communicate. So the communication is like, totally, there's really not much communication going on there. 

So we bring in some of our tech stacks. So we love Monday. We love Slack. That combined is quite a powerhouse for us. 

And then we start to look at different ways of ordering and seeing who their suppliers are. Maybe we can, you know, get little cost savings, or maybe even improve the quality by using one of our suppliers instead. So that's another place that we look at.

Chase Clymer  

Alright, that's fantastic. And a question that comes to mind is, have you bought a client off? Like, have you bought a brand off a client before? Has it ever come up that way? 

Jordan West  

No, not yet. But there's one that I'm looking at that I want to have a conversation with them. So (laughs).

Chase Clymer  

That's just, you know, being in this space, you know, you have to be passionate. You're, you're in a service industry. And if you don't truly deep down want to help people, you're in the wrong industry. 

So I find myself often like, "I know, we could do this better if they just let us off our leash", you know what I mean? 

But like, when does it get to the like, just give me the whole thing. And I'll just do it better? You know what I mean? Like, there's a line across, I guess, you know, I've always thought about it. 

But yeah, it's a whole interesting thing about, you know, owning a brand. And it's been something top of mind for me and my partner for a while.

Jordan West  

Yeah, it's one of those things if you don't know it yet, there is so much work that goes into it. But once you have the systems in place, it's incredible what you can accomplish. It's very worthwhile going the brand route. 

Chase Clymer  

Now with the agency, are you charging the brands a rate to work with the agency? Are you still keeping those things separate?

Jordan West  

Yeah, that's a great question. So what we're actually doing right now is we're using them as our training tools. 

So it allows me...because I wouldn't normally have time to be able to help train new ad account managers and new actual account managers. I would never have time to train them. 

But the great thing is that we take these brands and we help train our employees using those brands.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think that's a very ace-in-the-hole strategy there. 

Jordan West  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

And then what it looks like with...because we have internal projects at the agency, you know, we have Honest Ecommerce and that's an internal project. We have the Electric Eye website and all the content around that, and all the weird stuff that I'm doing in the marketing world. You know, those are internal projects. 

How do you weigh what project to work on, you know, a brand that you own versus a client brand? Is there any sort of weighted concern of which gets priority?

Jordan West  

Totally. Yeah. Great question. So clients will come first. Worst case, I will take over the management of those accounts if we have to. 

We also have internal teams at all of our companies. And they've got a lot of resources there that they can use. We can push that back to the team. 

If we don't necessarily have the bandwidth, which I'm sure you know, in the agency world right now. Hiring has been a little bit more difficult than normal. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Jordan West  

Wage expectations have gone up substantially during this time, especially in Ecommerce. So we've had to juggle all of that a lot.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I mean, I was just on another podcast this morning. And like my ending advice was "Hire the most expensive thing you can afford." That's pretty much like how it's working these days.

Jordan West  

Yeah, it's incredible. Like we had one employee leave recently and the offer that he got comparatively, we're Canadian, right. So the offer that he got was triple what we were paying. Okay, we can't afford that. It's not possible. So yeah, there's a lot going on in this industry.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, there's a lot of legacy brands getting into the space. And if you've got any kind of history with direct to consumers or anything like the offers are going to be very substantial on the service side of things, you know, if you have a skill, the job market is looking pretty good. 

But on the flip side, working for smaller agencies, you know, like Electric Eye or Jordan’s. What's the name of your agency for people that don't know? 

Jordan West  

Mindful Marketing.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So for Mindful Marketing or for Electric Eye, it's definitely, it's not a family. I hate when people use the word family to describe their businesses because that's a ploy. 

But it's definitely a more fun experience. You get to do a lot more things, you get to be way more creative. It's a lot less rigid. 

You're allowed to just be like, "Hey, this process is stupid. Why don't we just do this instead?" You know, but when you go to these bigger things, you're just checking boxes all day?

Jordan West  

Totally, totally. I mean, they're so set in their ways that the big agencies, right? So where we're definitely able to pivot a lot faster.

Chase Clymer

Yeah and be nimble. And I mean, heck, just like last week, we had a conversation internally, we're like, "We just added we're not doing that anymore. You know, we don't like doing that. We're not gonna do it anymore."

And, and that was that, you know? And you can make those types of decisions when your team you know, it takes a pizza to feed the team, when it gets bigger than that there are a lot more moving parts. 

Jordan West  

Yeah, that's a great way to put it. 

Chase Clymer  

So we're coming out of the pandemic. You are about to acquire two brands. What in the world of Ecommerce is the top of mind for you? What do you guys have been noodling on or playing with recently?

Jordan West 

I think subscriptions. Moving into the subscription space, trying to find ways to have that type of revenue, that's something that we've never done before. So one of the companies we're buying has a subscription box element to it. 

Another one of the companies that we're acquiring has a subscription portion with their bows that they sell.

So really seeing what we can do there and really, you know, Ecom can be so up and down, right? And so seasonal depending on what products you're selling. That subscription element, I think, can really help manage that cash flow, right. The biggest thing for anybody out there who has an Ecom business is cash flow, right? 

Read Shoe Dog, and listen to how long it took Phil Knight to figure out cash flow, even with making mountains of money. So that's something that I'm particularly looking at within our businesses is figuring that portion of it out the subscription portion.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, subscription is an amazing element. And we had a brand in the pool and spa accessories space. And they only have you know, there are hundreds of views on the store. But they just made a subscription for only their generic filters that they source and in private labeled. 

That's all it is. And that pays. It makes them a lot of money now. They've been doing it for two years. They built a whole marketing funnel around just that thing. 

So that's a way to introduce it to a store that isn't built around that model. You know what I mean? There are products that you have. Anything that's replenishable or, you know, wears out over time, you could definitely build a subscription-like aspect to it. 

You don't need to redo your entire business model to make it all about subscriptions. I think some people get lost in that sauce.

Jordan West  

Yeah, I think that there are some really easy wins. Selfishly, I actually, next week, I'm hosting an event that I was able to get some really good big names in the subscription space out to like Ezra Firestone and Ryan McKenzie, and some of these guys who have done really good jobs with their subscription products. 

Because I want to just ask them, where that entry point is for brands, right? You know, these brands are doing 10 or $20 million a year and don't have subscription products. It's just such an easy win. So that's really what I want to know.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. And then I see your point of what you said. The thing about the money and figuring out cash flow. I think there are definitely three stages of the business. 

There's like, you know, the one zero to 1 million, right? There's this finding product-market fit. That's the big, audacious goal there. 

And then from one to 10 million, it's figuring out how to profitably acquire customers, you know what I mean? People call it scaling, they call it growth, whatever. If you spend $1, you get whatever more than $1 back, figuring out how to do that is pretty much your goal from one to 10 million. 

And then after 10 million, it's financing. It's figuring out cash flow. And it's akin to money magic is what I've heard. There's a lot of stuff that goes on there. That is, you know, 300-400 level stuff that is you got to be deep in the game to learn these things. 

Jordan West  

Absolutely. I mean, yeah, managing cash flow, even at that lower level, right, even in that five to 10 million range is very difficult especially when you have inventory heavy businesses. 

I mean, at our clothing company, just outside of where I am here. We're carrying at any time generally around a million dollars of clothes, just in raw costs. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Jordan West  

That's a lot to handle, right? That's a lot to handle at this point.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. And it's basically parking that money until it sells and figuring that stuff out figuring out, you know, getting more friendly terms without being, you know, kind of an asshole, I guess. (Laughs) 

Jordan West  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

You know, there's a lot of stuff around that. And it definitely, you know, gets more about relationships when you go up the market than it does about. 

I don't know where I'm going with this train of thoughts, to be honest. 

Jordan West  

It's good. You're Unprepared. And that's great. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So Jordan, you know, I know that you host a podcast, if people are intrigued by what you have to say, you've got both perspectives as a brand owner and as an agency owner. 

And if they're looking forward to learning more about that, where should they go? What should they do?

Jordan West  

Yeah, so Secrets to Scaling your Ecommerce brand is our podcast. Trying to bring on great guests, we do three episodes a week. Really, again, just like you went super heavy on content during the pandemic, and that has really paid off just finding the best and the brightest in Ecom right now. 

And then LinkedIn is a great place to connect with me just search Jordan West marketer.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on today. 

Jordan West  

Yeah, I appreciate it.