eCommerce – Helping folks sell online
In this episode, I’m chatting with Bob Dunn of bobwp.com. Bob is a master at producing content and building an audience.
We’re talking about eCommerce, and what’s involved in selling products online. And the conversation doesn’t stop there. Bob shares his experience with podcasting, page builders, managing affiliates, sponsors and more.
So if you are thinking about starting an online business, this episode covers a lot of ground.
With a background in marketing Bob and his wife Judy grew a marketing company into what today is a content marketing machine centered around eCommerce.
“In 2007 I began to dabble in WordPress and by 2008, I knew it was the perfect solution for me and my clients. We dove back into eCommerce a bit more by starting a membership site in 2008 as well, a time before membership sites really were catching on. And obviously, with the technology nowhere at where it is today, it took us a good 9 months to develop the site.”
Today, Bob produces several podcasts and writes a ton of useful content for his growing audience. The rest is history, as they say.
In a nutshell, it’s all about eCommerce with a frosting of WordPress.
Listen to Episode 21
Where to find Bob:
Tools and Resources discussed:
Full Transcript of this Podcast Episode
Jackie Hey everybody, it's Jackie D'Elia with Rethink.fm. This is episode 21. I have my very special guest, Bob Dunn. Bob Dunn is in the house. Hey Bob.
Bob Hey Jackie. Jackie, I am so glad to finally be on your show. Not that you been on for years but I am honored to be on your show.
Jackie Thank you. I know we chatted, I think, last November. Had a chance to meet online and then do a Skype call together. We had a great conversation that I almost think was like an hour and a half long, you and I talked. I definitely had you on my roadmap for season two. I'm so glad that you were able to make yourself available and schedule sometime, so that we could get together and chat.
Bob Very cool, looking forward to it.
Jackie I would say, anybody who's listening to this episode right now, must know who you are. If somebody doesn't just go ahead and tell us who you are.
Bob In a nutshell, background, 25 years in a marketing company. My wife and I ran our own marketing company. 2007 moved in the WordPress space. That's been about 10 years. During that time I did design. About 2010 was coaching and training, really got into that. The entire time I was ... been blogging for quite a while. I started my first podcast in 2014. That lasted for a little over a year. Right now, up to date, I'm blogging full-time, on my site. I'm running three podcasts, I have the WP eCommerce Show, which is a ... kind of my, one that I've had the longest for, I think since last March. Then I also have the BobWP Monetizer and Podcasting with BobWP.
Jackie Awesome. First question for you is, whose your target audience? You've got these podcasts and you're blogging on a regular basis. Who are you talking to?
Bob I've always worked with beginners. For several years it was focused on beginners. I made the transition into the ecommerce space the last couple of years. I started building that up more and more. It started out more in WooCommerce. As I expanded that I thought, it's not just WooCommerce, there's so much out there. Then, ecommerce is such a broad umbrella that I'm talking about monetizing, basically. From selling your services to whatever. That became my focus as I started narrowing it down.
That's how, for example, I have the eCommerce focused podcast. The blog is typically, still has a lot of stuff about blogging. That's across the board. Then, the Monetizer, which is more, again, in the eCommerce space. Even the podcasting one was something I just added because I was getting into it, having fun. I thought I'll just share some short snippets. In a sense, I think, podcasting, again, is another part of monetizing. It's really that monetizing/eCommerce. From people starting to people wanting to grow their site. It's still pretty broad but it was an easy transition from what I was doing.
Jackie I definitely think that the eCommerce side of things is growing. There's areas in our space that are growing and some areas that are contracting. I would say that there's a lot more interest in monetizing, and finding ways of selling things online. Then, finding ways to deliver that. You've got WooCommerce as part of that but, it's certainly not the only way to do things. You could have a fantastic blog and maybe have a Shopify site, or something. Or, there are lots of other options. Broadening that market seems like a really smart idea, that just being focused on one plug-in, or one platform for eCommerce.
Bob Right. When I stopped doing actual services, the training, the coaching, everything like that, and wanting to monetize the site. I looked at my audience and I thought, "Okay, the people that are wanting to spend a little bit more money are the people that are looking to monetize their site." Especially the online eCommerce space, they're building their businesses, their retail online. They're willing to invest a little more money into that. I thought, "This is a perfect, again, perfect transition. As far as, myself being able to monetize my site."
Jackie Is all of the monetizing of the site, does that kind of still orbit around the WordPress universe? Or are you kind of veering off in other directions too?
Bob It's interesting because, I have the ... my two biggest ways of monetizing my site is my podcast sponsorships and my affiliates. Affiliates still are pretty heavy on eCommerce, I should say WordPress eCommerce side of things. But, the podcast sponsorship since it does touch on WordPress but is more focused around eCommerce, it's not as focused. I'm able to touch a broader audience in that part of it. Give you an example, Avalara is a tax company on my sales taxes, they were a sponsor for my podcast because they worked with podcast and WooCommerce, but they work with all online retailers.
Even though WordPress is always going to be there because that's what my archives are. I have tons of stuff on there. It's not always focused on it. A lot of the things I do talk about, whether to the blogger, the podcast, are more broad eCommerce space. Security, taxes, shipping, all that stuff. Whether you have a WordPress site, Shopify site, some other kind of site, you're thinking about doing it, you're going to learn something there.
Jackie You're right. I ran an eCommerce business for 10 years. Pre, doing anything with WordPress. Mine was on a Yahoo Store platform. Basically, it's a hosted solution. You build your store and it handled all the backend for me, the inventory and the shipping charges. You had some flexibility in there where you could configure things. I have to say, for more people that are getting started in eCommerce, there's a heavy learning curve on just getting processes in place, to be able to grow your store.
My store wasn't that big. I had a couple of employees. We were doing, maybe a half a million dollars a year, in sales, on the online store. It wasn't anything gigantic. Getting to a point where you can manage like 100 orders a day, that was a challenge, to learn how to effectively manage your shipping costs. How to manage your inventory. Mine started off in my house. That business started off in a spare bedroom. In the beginning, it was really easy, there was one or two orders a day. I was only selling a couple of products, it was really easy to do.
As it started to grow, I had a 5,000 square foot place in the end, with lots of products and having to track all of that. I think there's a lot of areas, just besides the software aspects of it, that can really make or break you as far as your success as being an online retailer if that's the focus that you're on.
Bob I think, you're exactly right. Taxes, that's another whole ball of wax. Shipping is another whole ball of wax. The interesting thing of having the podcast is, I get to talk to all these people that are a lot smarter than me, in the eCommerce space. I am learning incredible things that I would've never imagined, or thought of myself. Sure, you can do a site that's got two, three products. Maybe put it together, Shopify, WooCommerce, whatever you choose. I'm seeing all the things that go behind an eCommerce site. You have so many facets.
I just had a recent one that's coming out soon, a podcast on some of the pain points, or what a lot of eCommerce startups are ignoring or failing to do. There's so much more, there's that technical part, but there's the marketing, the advertising on and on and on.
Jackie Let's talk about that for a second, where are people failing on their initial online stores? What are some areas that they're not, they're just not ... they're overlooking, they're not really getting it right?
Bob On the latest podcast, a couple of the areas were, marketing, having a decent marketing plan in place. I think that's huge. I think that another one was really understanding your budget, especially when these startups are looking at and putting this online store together. They just don't really think through. They think through all the technical parts, all the connections within the online store, but they don't think through "How do I keep this thing going? What kind of help and I going to need beyond it?" All these other aspects.
I think the other pain points, it's just ... It's, like I said, you can have two, three products, and sure, throw up a Shopify site, install WooCommerce. Put their store front theme on, whatever. You've got two or three, you start putting more and more inventory in there, you need more and more features or the flow of your site. Making sure people get from A to B. To me it's almost, I don't want to say overwhelming, but I think there are so many different pain points people will have.
Depending where you are in your space, are you technical? Are you not technical? Do you need somebody to handle all that? Do you know enough to get in there and do certain things, even start your own site, a DIYer? As you grow, you're going to need help. It's all over the board. There's a set up part of it that the pain points come, but there are so many pain points that people don't prepare for, the other aspects of it.
Jackie I found one of the areas that paid off for me, was really focusing on SCO. Back at a time when, Amazon maybe wasn't as big of a player in the space that I was in. I was doing a lot of eco-friendly and green gifts and garden things. There wasn't a lot. It was easy to get visibility online without having to pay for ads. My goal was, I didn't really want to pay for Google ads. I worked really hard on SCO and optimizing my pages and really working on my content and interlinking the pages. Lots of work like that. It took a year and a half maybe, to get where I needed to be.
I think, a lot of times people don't realize that there's a lot of work. Rebecca Gill talks about this a lot in her courses, whenever she's talking about SCO, you have to put the work in for this, it is not an easy process. I think, a lot of people drop the ball on that too where, they think they upload an image and they put in a description and it's automatically going to find anybody who would ever want to buy that. Today you've got a lot of competition online. Those things become really important.
I wanted to just loop back around and talk about WooCommerce. Who do you think WooCommerce, in its current incarnation, where things are right now in the WordPress space, who do you think this is a really food solution for? Who isn't a good solution for?
Bob That's interesting because I've been trying to get that answer out of some of my guests. I think people have ideas of what they think. The reason I got into WooCommerce, I actually started using it when it first came out, was because I was already knee-deep in WordPress. It seemed like a natural. I think for a lot of people that are in that space, it's a lot easier. Maybe there's benefits on SCO, etc, etc, to integrate it into your existing WordPress site. Or, you're working with what you have already.
Starting from scratch, it's all ... I wish I could give everybody the magic tip. The big argument's always going to be, there's WooCommerce and then there's ... there's other eCommerce plug-ins, obviously. For Easy Digital Downloads, great for downloads, I love that plug-in.
Jackie I use it, I use it as well.
Bob When somebody comes to me and they say, "I have 10 downloads," it's like, I've even told people at workshops, "Why are you using WooCommerce or even considering it?" Plug-in EDD, unless year really thinking, are you going to have 200 products down the road that you got to start shipping? Future, maybe there's not a reason to use it, but, for a lot of people, that's the case. Then, you go to things like Shopify, there's the argument of, you got to be on your own platform. Shopify used to be a little bit more affordable, it's gone up in price. There's just a lot of variables.
I did have a chat with, I'm drawing a blank, but it was ... I did have a podcast episode just on this from somebody that works both with Shopify and WooCommerce. He went through the different ... what he really talks with clients, as far as figuring out what their needs are and trying to match them with the right platform. It's a process. I don't think there's really any simple cut and dries, unfortunately. I wish there was.
Jackie No and a lot of the hosted ones have fees, transaction fees, that for me, when I had my store, that was a component of my monthly cost, was, not only the hosting of the site. Then there was a percentage of all the sales that occurred on the site for that month, you had to pay a fee for. That's another factor that, when you're doing the WooCommerce, or an eCommerce plug-in on a WordPress site, you'll be like, "Okay, well I don't have any transaction fees. That kind of eliminates that." Scalability does become more challenging as you grow. A hosted platform might make it a little easier to scale.
If you're going to sell just a couple of products and you're comfortable working in WordPress and WooCommerce and I still believe there's challenges for a lot of people. That, if you're going to do it yourself, it can be overwhelming, even for a store with three products, to get a payment gateway setup and get it tested and integrated and get your layouts correct and how you want your product pages to do it. There's all kinds of hooks and filters and things that are mentioned all over. You start digging in and you go, "Wow, there's an awful lot to do to get this site up and running."
I'm wondering, how do you think page builders are going to help in that area? Or do you think that they will.
Bob I hope I don't sound like a broken record but I just recently did a podcast with Robbie from Beaver Builder, on that. I gave it to him, it's called pros and cons. I wanted to ask him, when is it best and when is it not best to use a page builder? I think page builders have come a long way. I used my first one back in 2009. Kind of site page builder, I'm not going to say what it was. It was quite a bit different than they are these days. Again, with anything, there's pros and cons. I think as they're improving and ad they're getting more stable and there's not the issues of speed and all of the things people are concerned about, I think they're going to become a bigger part.
One of the things I found interesting, that I hadn't really thought about is, that he brought up, that really works with page builders is the A-B testing. Page builders give you the ability to create these different page layouts and easily test them with customers. That was like, ding, ding, ding. In my head I thought, because that's cool because that does make sense. You're able to switch things around a lot easier. I believe some if them have it actually built in AB testing where you can create two separate pages and have different people land on those two pages. That is huge. That's going to be a big ... I think that might be one of the biggest selling points for page builders in the eCommerce space.
Jackie That's a really good metric too, for usability and user experience. That gives you some data about how a page is performing. A specific layout or design does better, one does better over the other. Whereas, most of the times you're just guessing. You do a layout and you do ... you say, "Okay, I put it out see how it goes." You really don't have anything to measure it against, to see if it could be improved, right? If you have two of them, and you're testing both, you can go with one and then you maybe can create a third one later and test those, the second, the winner of the first one round with the second round and then kind of work it's way until you come up with something that is really resonating and working well.
I think that's a great feature, I hadn't even considered that as an option in there, as something that would make it easy to try those layouts out. That's very helpful.
Bob Like I said, I get these people smarter than me on my podcasts, I'm learning all sorts of great stuff.
Jackie Isn't that the beauty of it, right? That's wonderful. Speaking of podcasts, I wanted to ask you, you're pretty much an expert in podcasting, right? You've gone around, you've been doing it. I noticed you recently moved your hosting to BluBrry and you're using PowerPress, which I'm using on my site, and I'm using Libsyn for my hosting. I was just curious, you chose BluBrry for your hosting. Did you do any research on that? How's that been so far for you?
Bob It's going really great. I was using S3, Amazon S3 before. I was just storing my stuff on there and streaming it in. It wasn't the most perfect workflow. It wasn't real seamless and stuff. I was using BluBrry's stats so I had to put in special code on the link and everything. When I decided, at a point I thought, "Okay, Amazon S3 is starting to charge a bit more money for storage. I'm not using it for anything but this, why don't I move everything to BluBrry?"
I started looking at their migration service. That's probably was one of the biggest sellers for me. I was using the plug-in. I wouldn't have to go in and change any links, or anything. It was going to be, just basically hook up the two, let it run for, I think it took like four hours or something, but let it do it's thing and everything was connected and good to go. It was like, "Wow, this is cool." Now my work flows a lot better. Their support was incredible. I actually got on Skype, I believe it was Skype, or something. I had a few one-on-one with a support person that really walked me through a lot of this stuff or issues I've had.
That was even before, when I was using their hosting. It's gone great. I can't really compare one podcast host with another. I think BluBrry might be a little bit more expensive than some of the others but it's worked fine for me. Like I said, it was very seamless.
Jackie Are you getting metrics that you can monitor? I know in Libsyn, I have that, you can see how many downloads you get per episode and what regions they're coming from and things like that. It's really helpful to figure out who your audience is and where they're coming from. I'm assuming you get that with the BluBrry one too, right?
Bob Yeah. Then, like I said, I was actually paying separate for their metrics or their statistics before. When I costed everything out, it's like, "Okay, that comes with the hosting, let's just do this."
Jackie Other question I wanted to ask you is, when you go out podcasting on the road, what kind of equipment do you use to record episodes if you're remote somewhere?
Bob Oh man. I've learned my lesson. The very first time I did this was at the very first WooCommerce conference. I bought one of those little lapel mics, I can't even remember what they called, lavalier. I had that stupid little thing I was holding in front of people and handing out back and forth. It was the most horrible quality. Actually, when it's close, I have a couple snowball mics that I've taken with me. I'll just set up my laptop, plug-in GarageBand, get it going and record it. It's been really smooth.
Finding a mic is fairly easy to do. On some of the WordCamp podcasts I used a really ... actually the sponsor bought like four of these $20 mics, that seemed to work great. The mics, almost everything except, don't use one of those lavalier things, those are horrible. You're live, it's got to kind of be there. That background noise can be a killer. You've got to really play around with that. One of my podcasts didn't work too well because by the time, I thought I'd had it all set with sound, I played it back and I could hardly hear anybody. It was terrible.
It's a little bit of a challenge unless you pull people, find a quiet spot. Logistics is going to be huge on that as well.
Jackie Are you recording it in your laptop then? While you're doing it?
Jackie I was talking to Joe Casabona and he got this Zoom unit that I guess is a recorder. It's got a place for XLR mic inputs and some things like that. It was pretty expensive, I think it was about $500 or so for it. I was just curious what you're using and what your experience has been if you go somewhere and you do want to record an episode, that was real helpful, thank you.
Bob Really, you could sink a lot of money into these things. For me it's kind of, I'm live anyway. It's not going to be perfect. If I can just get a decent mic and could figure that out and find, like I said, the right location, I'm good to go.
Jackie Awesome. We're coming up towards the end here. I do have a couple more questions I did want to ask you. I wanted to talk to you about, say you want to start an affiliate program, I know you had talked to some guests about that and you've got some knowledge on there. I have been looking at the AffiliateWP plug-in for a client that Pippin Williamson's group produces. I'm just curious, what are your thoughts on, how do you decide, should you use a plug-in for an affiliate? Or should you go to something like ShareaSale? Have you talked to anybody about how to make that decision?
Bob Yeah, I actually had Pippin on, talking about that particular one. Then I had the affiliate marketing manager for Bluehost on another one. I got kind of the big end thing. I think it really is how much time do you have to manage it yourself? Some of it is payments automatic and stuff but there is some management you got there. You get into share a sale, you got, I think it's like, just to open up an account there, I think it's like 500 bucks and then you have a monthly. You've got to have ... be selling a lot of affiliates. Of course, you don't have to worry about anything. It's really how much you want to manage.
I think AffiliateWP plug-in has done a really good job. A lot of the people, or the WordPress space especially the vendors, a lot of them are using it. I used it for a short amount of time when I had something going. It wasn't long enough to even really get a good feel of it. If you have a WordPress site and you're selling a plug-in or something, I'd say start with that. You can always switch over at some point. I think, the biggest challenge, talking to both of them is actually building up that affiliate. How you run the program, that can be a make or break and just getting people on the band wagon and wanting to be affiliates and keeping the people that ruin it for everybody else out of the system.
There's a lot of challenges there but yeah, I think that's an excellent plug-in. It's a good way to test the waters too.
Jackie For me personally, I'm in the EDD ecosystem. I use that for managing client support and lots of things, subscriptions for that and for retainers, all those kinds of things. The EDD makes that really easy for me. I can just send a client, they can sign up and I don't have to do the invoicing every month, all of that is all removed for me. That's great. If I wanted to sell a plug-in one day, or something, then to me, it seems like, that would be the natural thing to do is, an AffiliateWP plug-in and just add that on to that. That makes more sense to me than doing something else that might have a big startup cost. Especially when you're first starting off, like you're saying. I know most of the folks where I'm buying plug-ins from them, I can tell right away when I got to sign up for an affiliate that they're using Affiliate WP. It sounds like, that's going pretty well.
Bob Yeah. It's really a good plug-in, yeah.
Jackie Last question I wanted to ask you before my final question. I shouldn't have said that. I have two more questions for you Bob. What tools are you using right now on your marketing, for your business?
Bob In my marketing. Since I'm not really doing services and stuff, most of my marketing, and I don't really build an email list that much anymore. I kind of stopped that for several reasons, which is another whole subject that I'm not going to get into. My marketing is a lot on social. I use CoSchedule. I spend an inordinate amount of time fine tuning my social and what goes out there. That's probably the biggest, in my ... Since I purchased it the first time, it's gone up quite a bit. I had to rethink, but I've just stuck with that tool. It's like one of those things that I just, I can't live without it. CoSchedule is a big one.
Most of my tool is creating the content, repurposing the content. I recently started with repurpose.io. It re-purposes my podcasts into videos that I can put on YouTube. I use a lot of plug-ins that run in the background. I use ThirstyAffiliates to manage my affiliate links. I'm trying to think of what other plug-ins. I've got the basic ones. Yoast SEO and stuff like that. There's a lot of workings in the background of my site to kind of keep things rolling too.
Jackie Very cool. Last question for you, what are you rethinking in your business? Going forward? Is there anything that you've been scratching your head about, lately?
Bob For me it's always rethinking the podcast and keeping that going through sponsorships. It's not necessarily rethinking it. I just changed my sponsorships again for season three. I try to rethink, or I try to revisit, my sponsorships to be keep them going. Where I'm not ... it's fair to the sponsor, it's fair to myself. Finding that fine line. That is it. I think it's just, for me it's a constant rethinking of, how do I repurpose my content? Getting really creative with that. That's my business. I have a ton of content and finding unique ways to do that. It's the site, the site is always constantly morphing. Who knows when the next design will come along. It's kind of always looking at that site and thinking about it and thinking, now what can I do?
Jackie That's a great way to look at it. It's definitely never going to get stale that way right?
Jackie All right Bob. That'll do it for this episode. If folks want to get a hold of you, what's the best way to reach you?
Bob BobWP.com I'm BobWP everywhere. Actually, Google BobWP and you'll pretty much see where I'm at.
Jackie You heard it folks, right here, you just Google, BobWP. Which, is really cool. It's great URL, it's short, it's only five characters. That's just awesome that you ... everybody knows you as that. You definitely have branded yourself, that's great.
Bob I got lucky with that one. That was a lucky one I hit with.
Jackie All right. Thank you Bob for joining me on the show. It was great talking with you. I hope everybody else has a great week and I'll see you on the next episode.
Bob Thank you Jackie.