Ecommerce Specialist at Viralstyle.com
Studying ecommerce at school to Selling a ton of product online!
Working at Viralstyle amongst Super Affiliates
Success in the Humour Niche
The Future of Custom Merchandise
Viralstyle has Sold 100’s of thousands of Tees!
Podcast Transcription Summary
- Extra Valuable Info is Highlighted in Green
- Mateen (Interviewer): Bold and Italic Text
- Mike: Normal Text
How are you Mike?
Hi Mateen, nice to meet you. I’m doing great, sunny day here in Florida.
Let’s have a bit of a background into what you did before the online thing. What did you study at school, were you a bit of hustler in school?
Yeah a little bit. My first experience designing t-shirts was in high school. I was in an ecommerce class in high school.
They had a class called ecommerce?
Yeah, believe it or not. It was more like a blog that would run alongside the student newspaper but it was an ecommerce centered course. We would do an online auction every year, getting donations from local businesses and we would sell t-shirts and everything that we raised money for went to this ecommerce scholarship and the scholarship would go to the seniors graduating who had an intention on studying business in college and so I did all those work. Designing the t-shirts was most of my experience in that course and I did the bulk of what we got from donations.
So the t-shirts performed the best.
Yeah it paid off in the end. That was while I was in school, I was also doing the ebay thing, like any entrepreneurial high school student. I sold things here and there for myself and I started working with some small businesses selling lawnmower and car parts when I was in high school and undergrad. I was studying advertising in college so I was going to school for communications and doing this on the side. I didn’t know if I was gonna stay in ecommerce or not. I went down the route of becoming a graphic designer and after undergrad I did internships and started working for non-profit and eventually moved to Florida where I started to take courses for my masters degree.
Was that masters in graphic design?
No, I actually got a masters degree in entrepreneurship.
That’s so cool.
Yeah, I kinda did this perfect transition, and this was all before I knew anything about viral styling and the whole t-shirt game. My background was really in graphic designs and marketing and I had this ecommerce thing that I did in high school but kind of just been sitting there, I guess I didn’t really realize the opportunity that was there in t-shirts. My first experience when I first saw them, the online customization of t-shirts, it was cafe press and places that it’s not built for that market. It’s really trying to get that big revenue and launch this huge campaigns that you can do with all these other websites.
So it wasn’t until I was hired at viral style just for marketing role, a little bit of social media, a little bit of user acquisition. Kind of looking at things that we can do on the customer side of things and the seller acquisition side of things.
After being there for a couple of months Tom was like “you really have to learn on how to be seller, you have all these skills that would make you a perfect seller so try it”. So I did and I probably failed on my first four five attempts but somewhere in my seven eight nine I hit a pretty big one.
Really? That’s pretty cool, that’s quite early actually.
That was really interesting to see and completely turn my mindset on how people were using the platform and it really started to make me much better at my job and kind of seeing little things day to day that can go to improve the platform and kinda thinking like a seller. That was really cool to just develop those skills and that mindset in that small amount of time coz I hadn’t really been doing online ecommerce necessarily since high school. It all came together awesomely. I just started to develop all these other skills that was perfect for designing t-shirts.
Yeah it’s really cool how you studied a lot that came together to make you pretty much the perfect fit to start launching designs for viral or even employed by viral style.
I remember when I studied civil engineering as a bachelor’s degree and I got into a civil engineering role but literally 95% of what I learned at UNI was very inapplicable to my role. I don’t know if it’s common theme in different industries but I feel like if you’re learning entrepreneurship or business, graphics design or stuff like that, it’s a lot of developmental skills that you can apply directly in the whole entrepreneurship world, so that’s pretty cool.
I think more than anything too with this kind of thing where you’re working for yourself and there’s so many skill sets that you can have your hand in that you can apply to this and succeed. I think the desire to want to learn those additional things that you don’t know, at least spend a time watch a youtube tutorial on how to do it. As long as you have that mentality of, if I don’t how to do it, I’ll figure it out kind of thing. I think that’s that one guiding skill that as long as you have that I think you can be successful in t-shirt designs. Learning to design the shirts, learning how to target, all the information on how to do it is readily available if you want to go find it and reach out to the people that have been doing it and want to help you, there’s so many resources available.
I kind of have the track record that I’m way over educated for most of the people that do this. Most of the people that do this are so taught, and I don’t want somebody to look at my background and think ‘oh I don’t have a choice’. Coz you absolutely do, the most that I’ve learned I’ve taught myself on the computer, hasn’t really been done in the classroom. I think that’s one guiding thing anybody who wants to be successful in this, as long as you have that, you’re gonna find success when you keep working at it.
Yeah definitely. There’s no shortage of video tutorials these days on youtube and success stories.
Especially with custom shirts at the moment, with teespring and viral style, how did viral style come about? I know teespring opened up this whole new market of custom t-shirts and different way to sell them, obviously there was cafe press and things like zazzle but I think teespring made it really attractive to affiliates with the high payouts and the whole facebook advertising thing.
Viral style is a really interesting story, Tom Dale one of the co-founders he was selling on teespring, you’re typical from zero to hero kind of success story. Just started out really with nothing, hit one campaign and hit another and turned his first thousand dollars into ten thousand dollars and kept scaling his business up. Eventually he teamed up with some other guys found some niches that just haven’t really been touched yet and they looked at what they can do with teespring and they just weren’t satisfied from it so this group of sellers turned around and decided to make their own platform that could fit their needs and that’s sort of how viral style started. That’s sort of been our guiding culture, is that we think like sellers and we’re not necessarily here to drive of customers and do that side of it. Our main thing is enabling you to be as successful as possible. Whatever it is that we start at from A-Z, that Z , that solution is always going to be how can we do something to help these sellers because we know that that’s how we’re gonna have the most growth.
I think one thing that you can find on viral style that you’re not gonna find anywhere else, it’s founded by sellers and it’s run by sellers and all the innovation that we’re doing is all from that seller mentality. Looking at it as an ecommerce solution being one of the first ones to offer these products, we’re not so tied in to designing and selling t-shirts and it’s really just ecommerce solution that we look at as what we can offer from a technology stand point.
Let’s talk about you and your journey into finding your successful campaign and all that stuff. How did you get into launching your own campaign, did you start from scratch? Really cool experience about you is you had the opportunity to sit around the really good sellers, top sellers and learn from them. How did that help the whole process?
I had been with viral style for couple of weeks before I launched a campaign. Tom kept urging me to do it, eventually I did. I think my first attempts were some fourth of July stuff. I had a background at graphic design, I knew the kind of stuff that I like and I knew facebook marketing but I didn’t really understand the whole aspect of how designs go viral.
You get a feel for how those waves work online. I would say it took a good number of tries. Before selling t-shirts, I knew facebook marketing. I worked at a brewery before this so we did some merchandise online but most of it was digital marketing from that local business standpoint. I knew my way around it but these simple little ad settings, the type of ad to create, that hybrid page post image that’s promoted for conversions, finding those little connections, being in viral style that’s where I learned it. I certainly could’ve picked that up in the seller groups or from adviser or videos that are available online as well. Just sort of the process of systematically going about your test or t-shirts. Every product you’re gonna have a unique way of testing things but I guess it was being in that environment and having them show me how to systemize things. It takes a lot of the guess work, maybe I would have audiences and they’re all random and there’s no real reason into why I’m selected and kinda sytemizing not only the design that you create but the audiences that you’re targeting and how you evaluate how your ads are doing overtime.
All I’m trying to do is make a dollar where before I was using these tools more for get the word out kinda thing. And so once I was able to make that transition to just find that bottom line. Anybody getting involved in ecommerce that’s what you have to focus on, at the end of the day we all have to be making money. Getting all these engagement ads and get all these likes on a shirt, and it’s probably time to move on and knowing when to move on from there.
That makes a lot sense, I have a few friends and couple of people in my circle that run businesses online, on facebook. And they’re happy when they get likes and engagement on their posts, obviously facebook does a really good job on telling you it’s a good idea to boost your post that you’re gonna reach an x amount of people. But at the end of the day if you’re not getting clicks to your website, if you’re not getting sales, if it’s not generating helpful actions towards your business which is the way you have to look at it like you mentioned it is about the money that you make, at the end of the day you do want to be making money from your advertising efforts.
Yeah, and it’s a completely different way of starting a business, especially from academia, from the advertising background that I come from where everybody is talking about brand consistency, brand value and all that. With us, it’s dart shot on the wall and see what sticks really.
We kind of throw a lot of those concepts out the window just to see what sells at first. And of course the aspect of branding can go a long way but I probably would’ve put way too much value in things that just really weren’t gonna help me sell shirts in the short term. You can focus on those things, you can worry about the branding and that sort of stuff later, but those are never those the make or break, or what is gonna make a campaign sell or not. Once you figure out that will it sell or will it not sell, it is a pre black and white that you’ll find there. If something’s a dud, it’s a dud. It’s pretty black and white, if you have something working you know it’s gonna be working. It takes a little bit of time to find that, you have to be patient with it. That was the biggest thing for me, I was almost tainted away from this creative background where I wanted beautiful designs and great ad copy, it doesn’t matter, just get it up there and get it in front of as many people as possible and learn what they like, and once you start to figure that out, create products around that. That sort of learn on your feet thing you’re not really gonna get in a marketing position at any typical company.
I guess stream lining the process you learn which part of the process matter the most. So you know where to apply that 80 20 rule, just launch campaigns, get in front of eye balls see how it works. There’s a lot of people who put too much effort into designing, definitely ad copy. I feel like some of my biggest campaigns have just been two or three lines in the ad copy, literally just a buy it here, here’s a link kind of thing. I guess it’s what everybody have to go through at the start, where you feel like every part of the process is important. I know some people used to make individual facebook pages for each shirt. You learn which parts are just too time consuming or that aren’t really worth that much of your time.
Right, and that’s huge for working on yourself too, no matter how much you’re going after like even if you have a full time job or you’re doing it on the side or you’re working full time and this is what you do. You need to make the most out of every single hour you’d have to work. You can focus on things that matters most during that time, that’s what really gets you the 1/10 success. I don’t know what a typical seller would be happy with their success rate is.
Whatever you do you just have to start to find that scale on to be able to be launching enough to find that one because they’re in there. It’s not gonna work if you spend 4 hours on one design and maybe that one design will pay off but you can’t do that on every single one and expect to be putting out enough quality work.
I feel like the most important thing is at least to put the concept of that design out there, even if it’s just a simple text. Put a bit effort in your text and make the design look a bit better, as long as the concept of the design is out there you can get that feedback whether or not the facebook audience that you’re targeting likes it, then you can put more effort into it. Especially with targeting I remember I used to put every laser targeted interest I could find every time I set up a facebook ad but then I realize at the end of the day when it’s test mode we’re only spending $10-15 anyway so you’re only gonna be reaching 20,000 people max, so why put all this interest when you can just put a couple and just test that and if it works then go back in and put a ton more interest, so that’s saving you like 10 mins per campaign, little things like that.
And money too. I’ve been selling for about 8 months and I’d rather over test than under test. I definitely shot myself in the foot over testing some ideas and I wouldn’t back out.
Probably love your designs right?
Yeah, I try not to be too sentimental about it. I don’t think that many people are especially the ones that are coming from the marketing background. But definitely that designer in me, I always want to have beautiful work. There’s always like a little bit of give and take of finding, am I satisfied with it, am I happy with it, fulfilling my creative aspirations. At the end of the day once I get over that aspect of it, I’m just asking myself is it gonna make money and if the answer is yes and I’m not doing anything unethical or sketchy with it, I’ll sell it.
Yeah makes sense. A lot of people get into that at the start especially non-designers where it takes so much effort to learn photoshop, learn to make a semi decent design and you make one after 6-10 hours. I remember my first proper design took 4-6 hours to create and after you put your heart and soul into it especially your first designs, you put it out there and you can’t help but spend more money on to it. I remember on my first designs I spent about $50-100 testing them, these days I just spend $5-10 and if I’m not getting really good clicks and engagement I just pause it.
I think you’ll understand the metrics that work for you too. There are some niches that I have that I don’t mind if I’m spending literally $2 dollars a click on it. But I know that segment enough, I know how much to write out those ads. Other segments I’ll know to just completely ignore any engagement that I get. Engagement is so broad, it doesn’t mean anything to who’s gonna buy it. There are some situations I think where you can use engagement as an indicator to try conversion ad somewhere. The whole social proof thing, you can look at engagement as an indicator and maybe you might see better click rates once you get that social proof. But at the end of the day a customer’s gonna but something because they like it. They like not in the facebook sense but they like it enough to actually wear it on their body. Getting that actual purchase is another step. And so I think it takes a little bit of time to know your niches and know which one and engagement patterns.
I think a lot of it has self-expression to it, it’s a weird thing to talk about. But there are some niches where people have a lot of self expression around it and you’ll see a lot of shares, maybe political things fit into this. You’ll see inflated engagement in certain niches and designs, you can’t really use anything more than an indicator.
Definitely, I know that sometimes you launch a campaign and you get ad set engagement and like wow you got something really big here but at the end of the day you can have something that’s really engaged but no one’s buying it.
I know and that’s crazy. I actually had this ad set once and I was getting the magic under a cent engagement, it was incredible and I couldn’t get a conversion ad to run. It was getting the same engagement in a conversion ad as the optimization for engagement was giving. The conversion ads weren’t hitting and kept scaling the engagement ad just to see how crazy this engagement could get. I had some good cash flow at the time to do it, sure enough the engagement blew up enough and it did turn in to a pretty successful campaign.
That I wouldn’t say to do unless you’re getting that magic engagement. The engagement ads, they’re not scalable really at all and I think I just got lucky, that was one those situations where I became successful by doing the wrong thing. By trying to keep pushing money, it did work out that one time. But I think it’s guarded me a little bit because after that I kept pushing other ones here and there. It was a bad habit to get into, I try to stay away from that at all cost.
I’ve always run engagement ads, it’d be interesting to get into the whole facebook advertising specifics and be really interested to pick a reign about that. I remember when I started teespring, I was part of this forum called affplaybook.com which is kind of an affiliate forum but when teespring was getting new, it was pretty much affiliate transitioning from cp offers to a teespring, testing it out. So a lot of people were testing it out in the forum and there was one really big seller in teespring who actually switched over to viral style and made a lot of money with them, with you guys. But before that, he actually was a big proponent of ppe ads or engagement ads. I kind of use the same model and I did really well with those kind of ads, had some really big campaigns. Nowadays a lot of people are saying you shouldn’t be using those ads, it hurts scalability somehow. But it was working for me so I stayed with it. You mentioned conversion ads then engagement ads, do you switch between the two different ads when you’re starting a brand new campaign, how does it work?
It depends on what it is, if I think that the niche will engage, is a conversion ad enough, I’ll just use conversion ad. It is a little bit for this social proof thing, also I do it more as a research or testing indicator. I’ll test a large number in engagement at the same time I’m testing a smaller number in conversion.
What do you mean by a larger and smaller number?
A larger number of ad sets and I do amount of smaller, more like a slow burn you could call it in engagement. So I might put 8 ads at $3 a day.
Why do you have so many different ad sets, are you split testing different things?
It depends. I isolate many things at a micro level. That’s what I’m attempting to do there, I start with the obvious ones and take what I’ve learned from this really micro, very small dollar spent.
So you’re testing different things. Main things that people split test are interests right? What do you split test in your different ad sets? I actually recently learned that devices is a good thing to split test too.
I mostly only start with facebook, I don’t go to another placement option unless it’s successful at facebook. I haven’t done anything do the opposite or only do well instagram without doing well on facebook. I’ve never seen it happen, maybe it’s just me maybe other people have success with it. Sometimes it’s the big ones that I feel good about, I’ll isolate instagram from the start and have its own ad sets.
Most of what I’m looking for are the different interest based targetings. Most of the things that I go after I don’t really have cut down too much in demographics, I actually narrow down demographics later, I know it’s a no no but I can always go and edit my ads. I’ll knock of the oldest years and youngest years that aren’t getting along, usually you see where the fair ground is.
Yeah, I think facebook gives you that age range breakdown, like which ones are engaging and selling.
Yeah so I just keep an eye on that and I’ll narrow down my demographics.
So you’re weaning some ads? That’s a scary thing to do.
Sometimes I do and I know, people hate it when I tell them that. Another thing that I’ve done is when a conversion ad is starting to die off that I’ve had. I always start expanded interest unchecked, I’ve gone in on ads that are starting to die off that have expanded unchecked and checked expand.
When you say checked and unchecked, what are you referring to?
The expanded interest-
Oh yeah, like when you kind of intersecting it in another audience, is that what you mean?
Yeah, it’s the option for it let’s say find people who like this or expand interest where it may lower the conversion rate. It’s similar to using look alike but instead of it being the most similar the way look alike audience would look at it. From my understanding it’s trying to find the lowest cpa for you.
It’s relatively new function isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s been rough couple of months, people didn’t really know what to do with it and I think I’ve lost a little bit of money by using it, I think with t-shirts you should just not use it.
Yeah I remember checking it a few times, the problem there is you’re giving facebook some control over your audience picking for you which is a bit scary. Don’t really know to use that.
So that’s what I’ve done, when the ads are starting to die off, I’ll go in and expand the interest on the ad set that’s dying.
Do you ad more interest or you just check that button?
I just check the expanded interest box and it sort of gives it new life for a little bit. I’ve had some success with that, those two things that I’m comfortable editing, demographic and age. As long as I’m not doing anything too dramatic with that and expanding the interest once it starts dying down. Honestly for me, once ads start dying down I have my way with them sometimes, and I’m also trying to launch more ad set variations to see if there’s anything that I’ve aborted early on that could come back to life.
The sad thing with facebook is you can expand it like crazy, you can have your budget set as high as $5,000 a day and make a ton of money which is great. But the problem is that the life cycle of a campaign on a facebook ad is quite short like 3-4 weeks. But I’ve never been able to find another platform where I can scale it to. It’s kinda like once you’ve had your campaign, it goes high and it dies on facebook and that’s it, you just have to move on to something else.
That’s interesting, the typical t-shirt business on facebook, you click the ad you buy it. And that’s how the teespring platform sellers go about selling their shirts. And there’s this whole other sector of ecommerce apparel brands that do it on a very old school way, either they’ve been online for a while or if you want to look at it like buy me brunch or something like that. They have the target and the designs but they’re creating more of a lifetime funnel with your email, trying to find other revenue outlets, not just facebook advertising. I think it would be interesting to see the way that different sellers sell and how they’re doing it right.
I think you hit a plateau with what you can do selling platform in that regard just because of the funnel, the only way to grow is more designs, more niches. The next step is establishing that brand. There’s a lot more that you can find in your funnel there but it comes with a lot of disadvantages and a whole other skill set as an entrepreneur to really find to full advantage, otherwise just stick to what works with this facebook funnel. Because there’s a lot of money to be made there if you’re doing it well but at the same time there’s so many other ways to sell t-shirts online.
I think facebook is the most disruptive ways to sell t-shirts. I’ve seen people make a post on reddit in a subforum and then really that campaign took off to make thousands of sales. Definitely different platforms but I think facebook just very easy to start a campaign, drive some traffic to it and see what happens.
Let’s talk about the process a bit more, let’s walk through when you first started your campaigns, the launching and how your mentality evolved until you hit that winner.
I kind of understood the niche thing but I guess I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t want to pick something simple and try to send people there. Being the artist, I try to go after more like a certain sense of humor that you would find in different pages, or blogs. I try to make all of my designs fit in to that, but I don’t create my designs on a niche specific, it’s all under this tone of voice or humor, as long as it fits in this style then it fits into what I’m doing.
Is it niche specific humor or general humor that can be applied?
It’s like web culture, like meme culture, it’s that broad.
The problem with that is I never knew how to target them.
That was my struggle at first, why it took me so long to get something that worked and once I’ve realized that as long as I can tune in to this sense of humor, this culture. I know people would find it funny and I can start to build my designs around that.
I think that’s probably the missing part; the niche appeal.
Yeah absolutely, I knew facebook marketing, I knew how it works. I guess I just didn’t want to believe that that’s all it was. To sell a million cat shirt and nail on the head to this exact buyer whom you have in mind and that every single word on the shirt is made for them.
You kinda call them out on some aspect, a very passionate part of them. It used to be their age, gender and stuff like that, but you can work on hobbies and the humor and stuff.
Yeah and that’s the cool thing, if it does succeed at that humor level then it has legs to go beyond just that most passionate 1%. Legs that reach beyond and get to that 15% less interested, you kind of transcend that super passionate that it’s a great shirt that even people who little bit interested in this shirt are still gonna like.
That I would say is the key to those home run campaigns that you see, they not only have to be great for that niche that you’re going for, it also needs this mass appeal. It needs to extend beyond that passionate 1%, that’s where you find the homeruns.
How many campaigns did you launch until you found your successful one?
I wanna say it was 8th maybe, I was spending way more money that I should’ve, doing all weird kinds of ads. I was with viral style, everybody told me exactly what to do and how to do it, I just didn’t want to do it, I was launching carousel ads, it’s a cool looking ad. A lot of that discovery led me to learn things and I actually use carousel ads now today and there’s not many platform sellers doing that who found ways to use them.
It took me 8 tries to finally get that one that worked. I remember the first ones that I did I got really discouraged and at the same time I see what’s trending. And knowing that I’m so much more capable from a marketing end and seeing what’s successful. I kind of just put that creative genius aside and said let’s just make something that will sell. And everything started come together pretty well.
It’s kinda like a muscle, if you run a lot, you’re gonna be good at running, if you want to sell t-shirts you can’t just be one foot in one foot out. You really got to be putting out designs, learning, trying new things and that’s the only way you’re gonna get better and your ability to come up with the right ideas are gonna get better, your technical design ability, your technical marketing abilities are gonna come together.
I think especially with this whole custom platform, because there’s so many parts of the process that you have to learn a lot in. Designing, marketing, launching campaigns, so you can’t do it I guess part time, that’s the problem with that, you have to put so much focus on it, you got to make it your main thing.
I think you can, as long as you make that decision that you’re only gonna be doing it for a little bit and you can focus on the things that matter in that little bit of time. But there a few people who are doing it at that level know what to value.
Until you really just throw yourself completely in there, I don’t think you’re gonna be learning at your fullest. You can certainly learn with one foot in especially depending on what your background is. Know what your skills are, know what’s important for becoming successful and doing what you can to be there. I think you can be successful even if you just spend 8 hours, every Saturday and that’s all you do. You create maybe two designs, you launch two designs a week and you spend your Saturday doing that. You’re gonna learn so much over the course of three months. You’re gonna be driven by an idea that it’s gonna force you out of that 8 hours, force you out of that comfort zone.
That’s true, I think it’s more of the consistent thing, like you said as long as you’re spending every Saturday for a good period of time, or I guess half an hour a day but you’re doing it consistently. The problem sometimes is people are so motivated and they give this everything and the first one or two campaigns they launch it then they don’t get the sales or engagement that they’re expecting, they get so disheartened and they kind of just leave it for months.
Yeah, we see that all the time at viral style. That’s one of the things I try fix too, I see people sign up the launch one or two campaigns in their first couple of days signing up. Then they’ll visit periodically and the next couple weeks and then just completely die off and not come back.
Or I’ll see people come back to it here and there and they just can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong but they’re not committed to really learning, and they get frustrated, they think it’s a scam or something.
It takes hard work. Nobody said it was gonna be easy, we try to make the tools to make it as easy as possible, but there’s skills, talents and a lot of research and hard work you got to put into to come up with the right ideas and get the right targeting for something that that’s gonna sell. It’s just figuring out that recipe, once you learn how to cook you can make a meal.
You’re definitely right, I find that people just don’t know how much effort and work goes behind transitioning from the start of not knowing what works to being in a position of testing a lot of things, getting all that data back, pushing through those 20 30 campaigns and getting in to that stage. It is a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of mind power as well, you have to force to get through to that stage. I think a lot of people underestimate that or they just don’t want to push themselves past that point.
I think a lot of it is financial too. You keep testing your ads, like what we’re talking about earlier, you get that idea that you really feel good about, it’s sentimental to you. You wanted to succeed and people get blinded by that and end up spending more money that they should be, end up getting discouraged. If anybody is in this situation listening to this now, JUST DON’T QUIT. There is another t-shirt idea out there that is gonna bang quarter or half million dollars in the next six months. It’s gonna happen, we see them periodically, we’re drooling like we wish that was us, it’s gonna happen again soon. It can be that person that’s just starting out today, that’s the crazy thing, there’s nothing separating me from that person from coming up with that idea, putting it on a shirt and creating ads for it. That’s scary thinking about that from somebody in my position, how easy it is for new people to come in. But if you’re not finding success, just think about it that way you’re just one idea away from a huge life changing pay out. It is a big of a miss of opportunity to just give up just because you’re discouraged.
I know almost every year there’s this whole new niche that appear out of nowhere then people start killing it in those shirts. The name ones back in the day, the occupation shirts, the gender shirts, grandma grandpa shirts, Buddhism shirts that really killed it. Like you said, there’s always this massive idea that comes out, opens this whole new space up. A lot of people ask is teespring, custom platform or viral style saturated, and the reason why I say no is because I’ve seen over the years that these whole new concepts come about. I followed this fan page that have successful dragon ball z campaign for 2-3 years. If you just hit the right shirt and hit the right emotion in your audience it’ll just blow up into a pretty big campaign.
Oh yeah, nobody who’s passionate or interested in a topic buys one t-shirt about that thing and say I’m good for the rest of my life. They’re going to buy another shirt if they see another one that they like just as much as the one that they bought it for. I hear it all the time, I wrote a blog about it recently; I hate hearing people saying it’s saturated. It’s not saturated, it’s competitive you’re still gonna be able to sell a new shirt if you have the right idea. There’s another big idea around the corner in absolutely every single niche right now. It’s just waiting to be done. It doesn’t matter how many shirts these people have bought, they’ll still be willing to buy another one if it’s that new big idea.
I think every time you impress them to buy a shirt they’re most likely to take the action if they’ve taken it before.
Yeah exactly. They have a habit of it now, they have made an online purchase they’re happy about it. We’re like stronger together right, so as long as we’re all doing ethical things and the platforms are doing an ok job fulfilling the orders. There’s millions and millions of people across the world buying t-shirts and building this online t-shirt purchase habit. If people have a pleasant experience buying shirt online, they’re gonna do it again.
Let’s visit the area of your process again. In your first campaign that did really well, in terms of data that got back was it very clear that it was a successful campaign compared to your other ones? What metrics showed you that there’s potential in this?
Every single one them before that was a complete dud, that’s how black and white it was. That’s a good question, like how you evaluate success. There’s a lot of campaigns the I get where I’ll see pretty much every single sale that I’m generating is coming from an ad. But there’s a lot of campaign that I run that get lifts through the platform and organic shares. Where as my paid advertising is only going to half the t-shirts that are being purchased.
You have to look at the data a lot differently. I wasn’t really seeing those share worthy campaigns at first. Most of my shirts were just direct funnel purchases. I developed a little bit more of paying money out mentality, so I wasn’t worried about exact ROI as long as it’s doing ok in relationship to that campaign on facebook advertising and that facebook advertising in relationship to how many I’m selling at large.
I have my overall profit margin, that I try to achieve. As long as I’m operating within there, how I optimize and decreased budgets and decide how much these ideas aren’t working, giving cash flow at any given time. Going after the profit margin that I want to run my business at and that includes even the graphics that I’ve actually designed.
I try not to look just at what’s the cost of this funnel to sell shirt, I look at it what’s the cost of the business, I’m not just doing a one and done campaigns. I think that’s a really important piece to measure how you’re doing from a success stand point.
So does viral style have online stores or you got your front end campaigns and do they have anything organic?
We have our market place like teespring; we do cart emails, complimentary remarketing. Right now it’s just facebook, it’s an option you can turn it off. It kind of pulls you in to the whole site. Not every campaign getting traffic is necessarily gonna get it, it’s the campaigns that’s more likely to make that sale, again it’s optional. Most of the bigger sellers decide not to do it, mostly it’s just that they want to be in control of everything.
The other thing that I would say, on some campaigns over 50% of my sales are coming outside of advertising. And a lot of campaigns too, after they’re done advertising they still get trickle ins from people on viral style. I think the market place has been helpful for people to viralstyle.com, so it has generated more or less of it’s own customer base. We here at viral style we really trying to enable you guys to get those homerun campaigns and provide for that platform to do it. We’ll be doing things in the background to help you. If you’re listening to this and if you have any input go to viral style power sellers group let us know what you’d like to see for that. Feedback like that we’re always looking to hearing those things, we’re not here to try and squeeze out extra dollars for ourselves. We’re really trying to make it the best platform for sellers and that’s our number one motive for every improvement that we make.
Let’s say you’re launching a brand new ad that you’ve got a brand new design, how do you go about setting your ads for it? I’ve interviewed about 4 people in different ecommerce background who’ve had success and I’ve realized everyone does it differently so it’s a question I’ve always had an interesting intention to ask. So what’s your process on setting up the ad.
I have a pretty templated type of ad format that I use. I really only use one page for the majority of my things and it’s sort of just have consistency and it’s also became very easy, and it works so I don’t try much to change it.
My number one priority on everything is conversion ads, I usually start them at $10 a piece depending on the size of the ad, how familiar I am with the niche I’m targeting. Sometimes I start as high as $20 if I feel good about it.
So if it’s a brand new ad you start straight away with conversion ads?
Yeah and I’ve made some engagement ads to supplement it or learn just about other potential targeting options, I usually kill those pretty quick. I mostly just do engagement to get a quick learn from the start.
So with your conversion ads what do you put the objective as, purchases or add to cart?
I always start add to cart. I have tried a few times testing new ads and I’ll do add to court versus initiate check out maybe test sort of. Add to cart has always done better, I throw in test here and there but I’ve always stick with add to cart with the exception of retargeting. I actually always do the AB test with retargeting.
How much do you spend on your retargeting campaigns? I’ve always spent just a couple of dollars per day just for retargeting.
Your cost per thousand is gonna be huge if you’re retargeting. I always do conversion for retargeting and I started $5 a day, the minimum is usually 300, I think you can start advertising with the smallest 100. I don’t think it’s really worth spending much, you might get lucky in your first couple dollars, but I’ll keep it $5 a day, I don’t really try and scale them at all, I just try to match to what the audience size is, and increase my budget based on that.
If I’m playing with budget and it affects the ROI, I always get scared when I touch the budget specifically.
I’m a lot more loose with budget editing than most people. In my first homerun campaign I made a mistake of increasing spending too fast, there was a really bad tail off it just died really quickly. I definitely noticed a really big impact at that stage, the downward scaling. It makes a pretty big difference there in how careful you scale upward can affect your scale downward. I look at them in the morning, and at night and sometimes in the afternoon, I’ll make adjustments to bids and what’s live and what’s not anytime throughout the day.
Are you doing manual bidding?
Sometimes, I honestly haven’t found the key to manual bidding. The auto bids for most of what I do have been successful. I haven’t found enough extra success, manual bidding for it to become a standard part of my repertoire, I wish it was, I wish knew more about that.
What are some metrics you get back that you can kind of put this shirt in the ‘don’t test it anymore’ category. How do you know this campaign is definitely not something worth to put more effort in to it?
Clicks. If they’re not clicking to the website then I’m done with it. If I see something getting some good clicks but really bad conversion, it tells me that something’s there.
I think it’s a big deal for someone to actually click the link, because they’ve gone just liking and sharing it. They’re actually clicking the link because they want to see the prices, the designs and stuff like that, it’s definitely and informed metric.
Yeah it’s that in between, an engagement is free; people engage for completely different reasons than they would purchase. Those two things are very different, the click is right in the middle, it’s free to the user, they have to be at least slightly interested to click.
I guess you’re disrupting their news feed so for them to go from browsing mode to check the product out is a big thing.
I usually look at that and then I hope that facebook can do it’s thing with the people that have been clicking and getting close to that add to cart and start to optimize smart for that. The clicks aren’t there, that’s usually where I abort. Campaigns are all over the place they have awesome engagement but no one’s buying it.
How much do you feel is a good amount to pay for a click? Let’s say you spend $5-10, how many clicks would expect to say that this might have a good chance of being something?
I try to be under a dollar per click.
Interesting coz when I was running teespring or custom merchandise campaigns, I actually never looked at the clicks to the website, that wasn’t an important metric for me. I was running ppe campaigns which are engagement campaigns. I was found once that did have a high engagement. So when I switched to ecommerce it was really important I realize to get low clicks between 5-40 cents per click for ecommerce product and I revisited my teespring campaigns and I looked how much I was paying per click and some of them were actually over a dollar. So I think sometimes with t-shirts specifically, it doesn’t need to be that low, maybe your on page conversion rate is a bit better with t-shirts.
I get some entire campaigns converting at over 10%.
That is sales?
Yeah, I can have it $2 cost per click with that and have an ad set that still does ok if I’m getting enough.
I’ll be pushing campaigns sometimes to where from an advertising stand point the cost per acquisition is much higher than the sales that I’m getting but I’m getting enough lift outside of what’s being generated. I kind of just have to balance everything that’s happening.
How much do you find is a good testing budget to keep? I personally just like to spend about 10 bucks, sometimes I even spend $3 and I realize I’m getting 50 cent per engagement and getting no clicks I’ll just cancel straight away. $5-10 is my deciding factor whether I want to continue or not.
I’m a $10 a day for two day guy; but I would kill something in 5 hours if I don’t like it.
I think there are some campaigns that you can tell straight away, no point spending money on them.
I won’t let something go past $10 with no conversion events probably.
When you say conversion event even an add to cart?
Yeah if I spend $10 and say have 10 clicks but no add to cart I’ll probably keep it going but if I have only 5 clicks and no add to cart I’ll kill it.
Some people in the comments section you can tell that they really like the shirt.
Yeah, I’ve seen that too. I have sold a good number of shirts from the comments too. That’s something that I think every seller every needs to do. Go down all of your shirts and see what suggestions your customers have made. Sometimes I even get customers messaging me on facebook and sometimes see people commenting and they make a comment about the design that gives me an idea on something else that I can do for this niche. It’s part of being in tuned to that niche.
Do you hire someone for your designs?
No, I have never hired another designer, I have a pretty strong background in graphic design. I went to undergrad for advertising it was more from a marketing point of view. I took summer courses for graphic designs. I think that creating your own designs is really important, not only that it is an important skill to learn and it’s gonna be cheaper in the long run if you can do it. But you’re gonna be able to execute your ideas better.
And also I think the speed of launching the campaign is a lot quicker. I try to outsource a lot of things, I’ve experimented a lot with outsourcing so even design outsourcing. Even in facebook, I have a virtual assistant. I think there are parts that you can outsource, do you outsource anything else or do you do everything yourself?
I do everything myself. I have worked launch campaigns with people together. That works where I’m not doing the design I’m working with somebody else who’s come up with a design and I help him with the targeting or a combination of both. Sort of like we came up with the idea together and I executed the design and I get done some tasks building the ads or something like that.
From a collaborators stand point I have definitely allowed people to do other things but mostly I’ve been in control of everything. I encourage every seller to have the skill that matter and be able to execute on those skills and the only reason why you would outsource is to save time, not because someone can do it better. Employing yourself is the best option.
Especially if you’re starting out, a whole year you should be doing it yourself. For me if you don’t know the whole process, the ins and the outs, it’s not gonna work out well for you.
How are you even gonna be able to decide what a good design is or give feedback. I’ve never really seen it as option but there are sellers that are successful doing it. I would just say don’t go down that route until it becomes a business scaling reason.
From a designer point of view, what do you find works well for you? Do you find specific t-shirt colors, specific colors on the text, any consistencies there?
I developed a consistent design style. I do a lot of it differently than most platform type sellers; I don’t really much care about color count. Typically sellers on platform they try create their design on three colors and operate on a large variety of garment options and colors. I create a design that look good on three colors, sometimes it’s only three colored designs too they just look good and work best with a few colors. I don’t care so much about the color variety, I kind of focus on the design. They have to stand out on the news feed, they can’t be basic. It can’t be that boring. The consumer can tell if you put effort in the design.
I feel maybe, I don’t know if you see it from a designer’s point of view coz you were trained in design. But for someone who’s learning it by themselves, maybe you feel that your design is good and you’re subconsciously biased towards your own design and you can’t see the problems with it.
I think that as a designer when you’re learning how to do graphics what is holding you back is you’re sentimental about it. You need to be able to step back and think subjectively, is it a shirt that you would wear and do you see 4 or 5 of your friends wearing it. At the end of the day it’s a shirt that a person is putting on their body and spending money on it.
Think about that most passionate person within your niche, would they think it’s cool and would they buy it and wear it. I think also that when I first started designing I was just doing what I liked and it wasn’t necessarily what the person I was marketing too. You need to remove yourself a little bit to make it the best for the niche, but you also have to think about it in a personal way.
Let’s talk about viral style, how’s your experience working with viral style, how are the guys there? You said there are other sellers that make the platform, do you see the entrepreneur in them, do you find them working a different way than others?
It’s really cool coming and working for viral style. Before this I wasn’t in a good environment; I would say that it was built as a solution to meet the needs for the platform, and they turned it around to make something better. At viral style we’re not just a page for people to sell their shirts on, we’re really an ecommerce solution for people it’s not just a platform.
Looking at what do we offer as a company and what is that problem that we’re solving and how do we solve it; we look at the t-shirt’s seller and their journey from start to finish, we wanna help them from their very first step in that door when they log on to viral style and they wanna take the academy. We teamed up and put together a 20 course 101 academy that will teach you anything you need to know about graphic design, facebook marketing and how to use the platform. We build on a lot of those same concepts and that first step in starting your own business. We’re measuring it before, the platform seller they have that one click funnel from the facebook feed to the sales page but we don’t want our sellers to be restricted to that. And that’s one of the main things that the founders set out to solve, is that it’s not just a facebook ad that there’s so many ways to sell t-shirts, your email list is one of them. Getting out that information and how much awesome stuff you can do with that today’s custom audiences on facebook, that’s a huge thing. And we offer that from your very first sale.
So how does that seller then progress, well if they want to launch their own brand we have viral style premium. We’re kinda off of that there’s always gonna be that friction that happens when you have a facebook page and they get to viral style.com and the consumer might be a little bit confused. But having your own site there’s always a lot more things you can do also in terms of merchandising and having a family of products there in the store front and keeping everything under that brand, consistent messaging that people follow your facebook page for. That’s that next progression that we see for our seller that is on platform and selling majority to your facebook; what’s that next step for them and how do they find that next revenue source to be selling shirts. If facebook marketing ended tomorrow, how will sellers sell their t-shirts and so we want sellers to still have that luxury. Thinking it that way, there’s no one track to sell t-shirts.
The entrepreneurial nature that viral style has is we’ve had that culture from how we came about wanting to build it. But also, we understand the entrepreneurial nature of every seller and we want to see them grow from selling on platform to the premium to opening up their own shopify store.
I think that’s like every one’s ultimate dream, to have their own store or brand.
Exactly. I don’t you’ll find that with any other platform. They don’t approach it the same way in that regard. They don’t approach it this every seller is their own entrepreneur, we’re trying to get every seller to that shopify store.
The other platforms, their t-shirt selling platform and they want to help people sell t-shirts. But we’re that whole ecommerce solution; we’re essentially trying to make our self obsolete with everything that we do. If we can offer our product like our premium or our shopify page and you will have more success doing that than selling on viral style, well we wanna help you get to that point.
Yeah, because I guess a lot of sellers that come to you guys never have probably sold a shirt in their life before. So, going to the whole process from the initial learning curve of learning facebook then shifting to another mentality where you want to make this a consistent business and like you said going to a shopify store, I guess you have taken them to the whole process. Which is pretty cool, that’s definitely something I haven’t seen any other platform do.
Is there any specific products that you guys have launched recently or coming out soon that might be an interesting thing to get into?
We’re one of the first platforms to start offering some pretty cool stuff; we’re gonna be releasing coasters soon, we’ve been doing home goods like phone cases and clocks. Clocks are really great seller, there’s huge profit margin on those.
Do people find high volume on clocks?
There’s pretty good clock campaigns. Anytime we introduce a new product there’s only a handful of people trying to sell them just because I think a lot of people are just set in their ways. But within the first month or two somebody finds a way to take it above and beyond and get a homerun campaign with it, almost with every single product that we’ve released.
Selling on facebook feeds is not just for t-shirts, any customizable product can sell well online.
That’s the thing with customization there’s so many products I guess no one’s kind of thought of it yet. But I’m sure there’s opportunity there like book covers, canvases, I don’t think anyone actually does custom canvases yet.
Yeah, we have had a few of those in the offices. At any given moment we’re ready to release three different products. That’s how innovative that we’re trying to be with being able to offer different products if you order it.
We’re getting this apparel platform coz that’s not us, we’re ecommerce solution and so whatever that product is today or tomorrow we’re gonna be ready to help you guys sell it.
Any tips for newbies to get started signing up to viral style today after listening to the podcast. What would you advice them to do?
Luck is definitely important but I would say, desire to learn. Know what you’re good at and make the most of what you’re good at. Know what you’re not good at and know what you need to work on. And like I said earlier don’t just hire somebody because you need them to do something that you don’t know how to do, learn how to that thing first. Desire to learn, that’s what’s gonna help you get to the next level as a seller, that’s what’s gonna help get your foot in the door and that’s what’s gonna help you get your six figure paycheck every year.
Alright Mike, thanks for sharing all these goodies.
Thanks again for having me and you guys can find my email address too if you have any questions about viral style feel free to reach out. I wanna see you guys learning, getting better and if you have questions about selling, reach out and let me know.