icon-folder-black Influencer Marketing

Mike Schmidt - Dovetale, Converging Influencers Marketing and Engineering

icon-calendar 2021-12-23 | icon-microphone 52m 46s Listening Time | icon-user Joseph Ianni
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Mike Schmidt of Dovetale at long last, helps me understand a term that for a long time has been of significance to me. In this episode, we talk about his influencer service so aptly named, and how the relationship between it and your business is a reflection of this concept. We talk about what problems in the market it's setting out to solve, his take on influencer marketing and how his journey as a software engineer brought him to this point. Was I tempted to describe how his background in software engineering dovetailed into this platform? Yes. Yes I was.

Mike is the founder of Dovetale.com - a platform to help Shopify merchants work with creators and influencers. Prior to founding Dovetale, he started Listn.co, a social music app, and later sold it to the media holdings group: SFX Entertainment where he led Beatport, now the largest community of electronic dance music fans and DJs. He is on the board of The Knowledge Society, a graduate of Queen’s University in the department of Engineering Chemistry and now lives in New York City.

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Tags: #Debutify #dovetale #influencermarketing

[00:00:00] Mike Schmidt: And I think that's a very different thing. Like you talk about community and how we're different in nomenclature, but like one of the big philosophical differences between us is how can we, like Amazonify the entire industry of quote and quote influencer marketing, creative marketing, that type of thing, because we're a big believer in like ecosystem through growth, or rising tide lifts all ships, those types of, those types of concepts.

[00:00:27] Joseph: Mike Schmidt of Dovetale at long last helps me understand a term that for a long time has been of significance to me. In this episode, we talk about his influencer service so aptly named and how the relationship between it and your business is a reflection of this concept. We talk about what problems in the market it's setting out to solve, his take on influencer marketing, and how his journey as a software engineer brought them to this point.

And believe me, I was tempted numerous times to continue using the term Dovetale in order to tie this intro together. So I'm gonna leave it there and let you enjoy. 

Mike Schmidt. It is good to have here on Ecomonics. How you doing today? How are you feeling? 

[00:01:00] Mike Schmidt: Good. I'm excited as ever. It's it's a new week new challenge. So excited to be here, excited to kind of take a break from speaking with customers. But yeah. All good. Excited to speak with you too. 

[00:01:09] Joseph: Yeah, same here. Um, uh, the, the excitement, I feel that I'm on, on my end as well. Uh, I continue to be amazed at just how much I get to discover. And anytime that there was a doubt in my mind that maybe I've gone to the, you know, dug down into the bedrock of a certain subject, I was like, oh, actually, no, we can blast right through that bedrock and had a right to.

And so for today, let's start off with the, uh, the commodity such traditional opening question. Tell us what you do and what you're up to these days.

[00:01:37] Mike Schmidt: I kind of do a bit of everything right now, uh, for the company. So maybe just a helpful background and I studied engineering, went into the world of kind of software stuff, and then sort of fell in love with just the ability to create something really quickly with not a lot of capital.

So dovetale definitely checks that box. Um, it's my second company that I've been fortunate to start and really the problem that we solve is kind of the rising customer acquisition costs across like merchant category. So if you've been sort of traditionally spending a lot of money on paid programmatic media, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, et cetera.

Great channels, awesome stuff. But it's becoming a little bit more expensive for merchants to do stuff on. And really what we found is like, I mean, we've been working on dovetail for several years now founded in 2016, kind of got our footing in 2017 with our entrepreneur first product. But the idea really is it's just like, how do you think customers that are selling something to people that want to promote something. A lot of people call it influencers. We call it community. Uh, we believe very specifically in the terminology. Um, we do use kind of like the word influencer and creator here and there, but mostly we help Shopify merchants or recently it's our flagship product now work with content, creators, influencers, and their community to drive sales conversions, and content and stories and all those kinds of fun things.

So we like to think more like the easiest way to help a merchant get started with kind of like this creative. Influencer type marketing that's happening right now. We're also the most, we're trying to be like the most affordable solution. Our real philosophy is how do we get more money into the hands of the people that are promoting these products.

Um, and then create this like you know, collaborative relationship between brands and content creators. So. 

[00:03:24] Joseph: Okay. Well, that's one thing that I definitely noted as well. Um, just looking into your profile and the website's profile is the, the decision to focus on the community language rather than necessarily influencer.

Not that, that word doesn't , it comes up, but, um, the community is far and away. The more, uh, the important element that, that you guys have support and an advocate for and integrate into, into your business. So that's definitely one of the main things that we want to talk about. You also, um, you like you Semite answered usually what's my question, too, when it comes to services and platforms, which is always like, you know, what problem did dovetale identify a need of solving? 

So I also just want to make sure that we, um, we focused on that just for a little bit, cause I was wanting to hear about the point of view where you were in the market and. What you saw was going unsolved, which was the catalyst to, uh, to start this program going.

[00:04:18] Mike Schmidt: Yeah. So a bit of a story. We started a company just right out of college, my co-founder and I, and it was kind of like Instagram for music. So imagine being able to follow your friends, listen to their music library, listen to their music, live, all that kind of fun stuff. We now have through Spotify and through all the other kind of cool streaming services and stuff.

But the reason why I bring it up is because we grew pretty heavily because we worked with influencers, content, creators, like cool people that were just like making cool content on vine. Um, so as far as I know, we were like one of the first companies to kinda like broker like a big partnership relationship with a lot of different creators on vine and, you know, sort of just like a really cool introduction to the whole space.

So that was almost a decade ago. And we sort of fell in love with the whole creative space and different things. And around the time that we started kind of, we sold the company. And around the time we were thinking about leaving the company, throwing around all these different ideas. And we were thinking back to the times of just what it looked like to get attention on the internet.

In 2016, we met the co-founder Uber and we were really excited about sort of like this new age publishing narrative. So publishers that Google index is on the internet are very specific. They're usually just like www.mikeschmidt.com. And I have all my blog and different kind of cool stuff that's going on there.

They do an awesome job at that, but what Google kind of misses is everything else. So the publisher of today, which is like the Twitch broadcaster or the Instagram or the YouTube or the tick talker. And it's just a different format that needs to be indexed. So we pitched this idea, Google for people, right.

And the inauguration of dovetail was really just like, how can we build a search engine that just sort of blew everything out of water? Uh, and there was certainly a lot of companies out there just like when Google started back in the nineties. And we just had to kind of build a better product. We, the index more pages, we had to go out and make search more usable.

We had to do all the things you would want to do. And we sort of just kind of, to be quite honest, we just fell into the whole influencer marketing world. We didn't categorize ourselves as an influencer marketing company. We didn't do anything else like that. We just said, here's the problem we wanted to solve.

And here's how we went to market with a better product. So definitely happy to kind of like elaborate on any of those pieces, but that's kinda how it kind of came about. You know, the story and the pieces just sorta make sense. And then more recently, happy to kind of talk about like how we got onto the Shopify thing.

Um, because that's, that's just like contributed to so much growth across the company. More growth happened this year, as far as usage revenue, pretty much every metric you can imagine because of Shopify. Then the last, like five years combined of our company. 

[00:07:00] Joseph: Okay. I've definitely written that down is how we got onto Shopify.

So there is a pin in that and I will unpin that momentarily. I guess the assessment that I made listening to your story is as a, as an engineer, right? As a software engineer, I think the approach that one such as you takes is, you know, focused on the tools and focus on the functionality and it's almost observing and seeing who are the ones that are, um, adopting those tools and in doing so you can then adjust what you're designing to defend them more specifically, rather than say like the marketer. And I'm not saying a marketers did make the wrong choice here, but a marketer might start with, um, wanting to appeal to a certain demographic and kind of knows what they want to do. And then they reach out to the design side to build the tools to fit that in specific. 

[00:07:50] Mike Schmidt: You pretty much summarized like big, big part of the problem is where do you start? Like, as a, as someone that's wanting to contract these talented people, how do you go and find them? How do you kind of slice and dice all the millions of users across all the different social networks?

How do you use a search engine to basically find the right, the right people that is still a huge part of the problem. And always has been, probably, always will be is, you know, these people that can promote your products and promote your services and do all that stuff. But how do you go about doing it personally between like, be in your audience and you and different people is like, I think that search product is a commodity. So eventually kind of like where we go and we've obviously built a bunch of other tools is we try to bring the cost of search as close to zero as possible. And I think that's a very different thing. Like you talk about community and how we're different and nomenclature, but like one of the big philosophical differences between us is how can we, like Amazonify the entire industry of quote unquote influencer marketing and creative marketing, that type of thing.

We're a big believer in like ecosystem through growth, a rising tide lifts, all ships, those types of those types of concepts. And when you start to charge brands and creators and members and stuff like that. Every focal point in the process, which is kind of like what a lot of our competitors do. They charge huge fees to like engage with influencers.

They take huge brokerage cuts, all this type of thing. It works really, really well for the short term, but for the long-term it really pain. Like I can see it very clearly. It's happened to many different technology companies, Google being the most known for this, um, search is free and they have one of the biggest businesses in the entire world because they played it really long.

And they said no to a lot of stuff. I think the influence of marketing world is very, very similar. And I just kinda want to throw a question back on you is like, what do you, what do you, what do you think about like when you read dovetail? I mean, you've been around marketing world. You're clearly in the shopify world.

What do you see, like dovetale lies? Like, do you, what do you think about community? What are you thinking about that type of thing? Because I think it's important thing for us. 

[00:09:58] Joseph: You'll, you'll be happy to know that well, you know, when I do my prep for this, a lot of what I think is, um, considering it in advance because I don't, I'm not just pulling questions out of the can.

Pulling questions based off, you know, my understanding and you know, and where I'm at. And the thing that sticks out to me the most is the relationship between the influencer and the community. And my point of view, going into this conversation is that oftentimes the two, they, they get along, but there isn't that level of in meshing where now the influencer is a recognized member of the community. They tend to stay as an outsider. And so seeing that the, you know, the community and it just goes beyond terminology, it is definitely about, uh, about the, the strategy. Um, what. Uh, curious to learn more about in this context is how has it been, have you noticed the, the, uh, efficacy of actually encouraging influencers to become a part of the community?

And is, would you say that that's kind of one of the, the, the bigger issues to work on is, and then we'll, we'll, we'll follow up on that, but that's just what I might, what I think to start. 

[00:11:07] Mike Schmidt: My quick commentary on it. Uh, you're, you're exactly right. Like the name, the strategy is sometimes our biggest differentiation in, you know, conversations with potential customers.

And I mean, you look at the entire market, there's influencer this influencer, that creator that's creator, that that's just very conflated. There's a lot of competition, so much choice paralysis for merchants. They don't know where to go and it can be, it can be very hard to make it. To make a decision. So the community nomenclature matters a lot for us because it is built and designed not to be marginalizing.

I'll give you an example. Almost every one of our sales calls, the first five to 10 minutes of a 30 minute call. So roughly 30% of the call is unlearning everything you know about influencer marketing potentially. So we ask very specific questions that kind of go through a process of like identification, information collection, those types of things, how you've been doing things what's been going on.

There's just so much information out there on different publishers and, you know, even the sales processes, some of our competitors lead you to think down a certain path and you kind of just have to trust our process in order to do what is right for your brand, right for your community, right for your influencers, right for your creators, really depends on like what you classify them as. So community is built as this overarching tool so that you can self identify your own customers. However, you'd like, some customers want to call them ambassadors. Some customers want to call them influencers. Some customers want to call them like partners or creatures or fleets or like, whatever it is.

If you think about like modern commerce and sort of the way it's going with respect to strong communities, it is like compartmentalized with influencers. Like it just has to be, uh, if you look at like Lulu lemon, Sephora, best buy, these like big, big brands and you, you put in. You put in like Lululemon.com/community.

For example, they all have communities. They all have like influencers that work with them. They'll have like these people telling stories on behalf of the brand, to me, those experiences are kind of like the future of where we're going versus like are a lot of our competitors. They just like sort of broker relationships.

They spam influencers. They're just trying to get like quick wins. They're trying to get like them to post really quickly. Like that works really, really well for 2021. CPC is on Facebook are super high. In 2025, those brands will be super, super tired, and those merchants will leave thinking. I need to refresh my strategy.

Oh, dovetale could be potentially my solution for this. 

[00:13:42] Joseph: Oh, sorry. One thing that, by the way, just before we continue on with this thread, I guess one thing that I cannot have a wonder, cause I actually like, I've always enjoyed that word dovetail. I've it's, it's one of those, it's one of those words that I've, I can integrate it into conversation.

I will. Uh, but why did, why did you . Guys go with that name? 

[00:13:56] Mike Schmidt: Dovetail is a woodworking joint in Japanese woodworking. It is the strong bond between two things. I'm not sure if you've ever seen this at like the corner of two, like a, like a wooden desk or something like that, where it's just like an interlocking piece and there's some really cool designs and stuff like that.

So the idea is dovetale is two or more components. So brands, creators, community members, whatever you want to call them, coming together to create a really strong bond, oftentimes without glue or anything else like that, they just sort of stick together and they fit really well together. And then tail is spelled T A L E like a story.

So that's like coming together. The story. 

[00:14:34] Joseph: Okay. Right on. Yeah. Uh, yeah, so that was just a, just a detour, but I really want to get that back system. Now, one of the things that you had said was, you know, going beyond and not just about the, the, the terminology I'm I I'm trying not to, to dock a nomenclature just because that's your word.

I don't want to take it. I'm going with technology. 

[00:14:50] Mike Schmidt: You can, you can take it. It's it's not mine. 

[00:14:53] Joseph: It'll it'll it'll come up and it'll come up sooner or later. I'm uh, once I learned about reasons they buy. Really changing my mind on things. It's like a positive cycle of them. So you're, you're, you're using a different terminology.

Like people can say influencer, they can say ambassador. And I was just thinking like, oh, you know, one thing I love to call, um, uh, these, uh, these participants I'd call them champions, no something, you know, they're, they're, they're the, they're the face of the, of the operation. They're the ones that are, uh, out there and doing the most organic marketing possible under the circumstances they got their Instagram through Facebook.

They're they're YouTube and they're, and they're the ones spreading the message. And to me, that, that makes him a champion and someone that's really, you know, leading the cause. And I think. It's an extension of the co the right kind of brand that I certainly want to encourage. And that I hope everybody encouraged, which is a brand.

That means means what they say. It means what they do believes in what they're selling and, and goes somewhat beyond just selling the product, but also trying to, um, convey a more. Um, a pleasant, positive, healthy, and hopefully profitable lifestyle as well. So that's something that I, that I appreciate, but I've got a, I got a challenging question for you.

I'd love to hear how, uh, how, if this problem has come up on your radar. And if so, how, if it's a problem. And if so, if it's solvable, which is, if you look at, um, an influencer as an independent, um, uh, associate their platform is going to grow. However, so based off their, their own activity, right?

And obviously brands are going to, to help with that based off the growth of the brand. But if you tie them very much more closely to the brand, I think what's going to happen. Their wellbeing and their, their growth is now more closely tied into the brand for better and for worse. So has this been a concern about the independence of an influencer?

And if so, what would you say is the decision that falls to the influencer is how closely do I want to tie it to this? Or would I prefer to keep more of my own, my own brand independent and be more of a partner rather than, you know, an integrated community. 

[00:16:59] Mike Schmidt: I think it's actually a really good question. And it kind of depends on content creator type of member, the type of influencer you want to be. And the reason why I say it's like more specific to that person is because if you're a person that just creates really good content and you're sort of jumping around from brand to brand, then that just depends on like how you want to run your business.

Right. Cause like creators influencers, small businesses, if not larger businesses, as they start to grow their following and their networks and stuff like that. And then there are people out there that just want to work with like one brand or just maybe a couple brands, like maybe one or two, but it's really just like a personal question that these people are asking themselves.

So for better, for worse, it's kind of just like up to them and how they're running their business. Like if I only have one supplier and I'm selling a direct to consumer merchant or I'm selling direct to consumer product, I only have one supplier then. Then that's my choice. I think I'm betting on that supplier to build and manufacture my product. And if they go out of business or something else happens to them or something like that, that's a risk in my business. If I'm a influencer or content creator that wants to work with only one brand and that brand goes out of business or something like that, that's the risk I'm I have to pay, but also the opportunity that's in front of me to cause growing with the brand. Say for example, I sign a multi-year contract with Lulu lemon. I've got 10,000 followers on Instagram, so not a lot, just sort of growing really quickly. I'm betting my future on Lulu lemon. I want to like be promoted in their feed. I want them to like, kind of grow me. It's very similar to what Peloton has done with all of their talent.

It can be highly beneficial, right? The is like better treating individuals as talent, I think are really special and they're going to win, but they're also going to want to feel some of that upside as well. So it's a, it's a buy and sell side relationship where you just have to kind of like predict and then also set expectations at the, at the start.

And probably Peloton is like the most famous. Modern company that has done this, they've kind of created it like a Hollywood ization effect inside of the company. So if I want to be a Peloton instructor, they have to kind of look at me from a talent perspective and be like, Hey Mike, he could, he could do really, really well here.

He's got the personality. You can do all this other stuff. They could turn me into a star, right? Just like CAA or WME or any of these other places. And the same thing will happen with brands. Like the biggest brands in the world will start to develop talent, um, at a more frequent basis. Right. So, because what happens on the other side of this is like, The Mr. Beasts of the world, they're actually creating their own brands. Right? So it's like, they want a piece of the pie too. Cause that's where it's much more lucrative for them to create independence and different things. So kind of depends on like all these different strategies. If you're just mom in Nebraska, I wanted to create cool content with my French bulldog every day.

Cool. Go work with Loblaws, go work with, you know, HelloFresh and all the other companies that are super cool and they'll take your money and they'll turn it into more content and all that kind of all that kind of stuff. But I'd say the relationship just kind of changes based on. You know what your expectations are and then also what their expectations are because more creators are saying no to, to things that don't align with their personal brand.

There's so much opportunity growing up there, which is like half of our, our mission as well as, as we're trying to create economic opportunities for more creators in all different capacities. But the one key thing that I really like about what you said is like this independence theme, how do we get creators to become more independent, less reliant on.

All of the different networks that they're on and have more control of their destiny. So like dovetail today kind of just looks like a brand tool, but I can very much assure you that our, our, our vision and like where we go and like what our metrics internally are is like, what is success of creators?

What is success of these members in community look like.

[00:20:54] Joseph: So there's a, there's a, there's an ongoing, uh, through our line through this. And this has been more of like a personal project of mine, an opportunity for me to contribute to the conversation, uh, as a, as a, as well as a be a listener, which is you have this, somebody else gave really good terminology for it.

And I dropped it because, you know, my, my brain is. And the amount of information coming in as a waterfall. So the bucket gets only so full. So the terminology that I use is, you know, you have your e-commerce brands and then you have conventional brands that basically were salvaged prior to e-commerce, uh, off the top of my head. The brands I get it today, you know, Nintendo Coca-Cola, um, pepita and so forth. And then on the other side, you have brands, uh, the ones that usually I go to, you know, Dr. Squatch, um, manta sleep, and magic spoon. And I, and I'm happy to see that we know over time that there is this in meshing where conventional brands need to understand they don't adopt to the advantages of e-commerce they're going to, uh, suffer.

And at the same time, you know, e-commerce brands in order to really continue that scaling, they do needs to be perceived as a conventional brand. And I think we get to a point where e-commerce and commerce will basically be the same thing. And for now, one is just going to be a commerce podcast, not going to happen tomorrow, but.

I am predicting that that will happen at some point. So my question to you based off this is, as far as the brands go, what has been the, the, the, how, what, where are your challenges right now in getting brands to sign on? Like what's the ball work for which brands need to see a little bit more growth, I guess that maybe.

Credibility say like a big brand, like Sony or Nintendo. Um, how, how are you reaching out to them as well to bring them on? Because I would imagine, you know, the bigger, the conventional brand, the more it legitimizes, everything in the process. 

[00:22:39] Mike Schmidt: So as far as like, you know, how will you go and acquire customers? We do have.

[00:22:43] Joseph: I'll start, I'll start with like. So the first, I guess, first chunk of it is what's been, I guess, your, your, your, your best milestones so far. Like what are the, some of the brands that you've brought on that are a positive sign of the momentum that you're building? 

[00:22:57] Mike Schmidt: Brands that we've been able to bring on probably more recently are the ones I'm most excited about, but in general, I think all customers are just as valuable.

So if you pay $0 or if you pay. A hundred thousand half a million dollars per year to the platform doesn't really matter to me. It just sorta matters about your experience and I'll put the same amount of effort on a customer that pays nothing as a customer that pays, you know, million dollars on, on the platform for, for me, like what gets me super excited about just like the growth is just seeing the amount of companies that are coming on dovetale right now.

So just the appetite, like when you build a product, you always have this existential worry that you haven't hit product market fit, or you're not going to get to like product, extra market fit and, and different things like that. You know, when we launched the platform, like the new application that's listed in the Shopify app store, we just saw really high quality brands coming in. So like control freak, and Italian and Therese, honey love and do kitchen and, and Moxie lash and, and different companies like this. We, we started talking to them even before we had launched the, the application. No, we were like really excited about just like these specific kind of like modern brands.

So you make the comparison between like taco bell and maybe like a hot sauce company. I actually think taco bell just partnered with trough, um, the hot sauce company. So you're seeing sort of like these modern connections between brands. And then you're also seeing these kind of like new age brands popping up.

But I would say that just like the milestone that I'm excited about is just like we launched a low cost. Highly effective tool for any merchant to start an influencer marketing strategy. And that's where I specifically say influencer marketing strategy, because that's what merchants are looking for today.

They're just looking for something where they can sort of check the box and say, I've got all these other customer acquisition strategies, but there's a gaping hole in my influencer marketing strategy. Even if they have used some other tool or product or service, they're like that tool is too expensive and it doesn't really do what I want them to do.

So when we go to market with, there are really simple ways to go about influencer marketing intersects with most pieces of your business gifting and affiliate codes and paid promotions and content and all these other things. And I think one of the big differentiations we have is we look at traction sales and, and, uh, exposure for the brand.

So all of our case studies that we, that we release have numbers and metrics and success metrics. Whereas like, I think entirely differentiated from the industry at large, where no one will tell you if you plug in service X, how much revenue will you get from this? If you sort of just trust the process going through this.

So I just want to highlight that too. I know it's a little bit tangential to the point, but you know, there is this kind of larger point around customer acquisition for the influence of marketing category. That kind of like there's proof in the pudding. If that makes sense. We don't want to sell someone a product.

That's not going to work for them. We don't want someone leaving after a year. That's frustrated being locked into a year contract. We, we, we really want every company that invest in the solution to be successful the way we kind of presented internally. If I don't know if you've heard this, but like Harley and the team at Shopify saying like, we're arming the rebels, that's this horror, the whole rhetoric around it.

They have sort of indicated that, you know, there's different toolings and pieces around the ecosystem that can be built and we very, very much feel like we're sort of this like artillery weapon on top of Shopify that we're just building this. Like, if, if Shopify is arming the rebels, we want to build the biggest Canon for them to, to strap onto to their website, to drive conversions.

[00:26:43] Joseph: Oh, as soon as I hear arming the rebels, I mainly jumped a star wars, or I shouldn't say I associate jumped back to star wars because I've been thinking about star wars a lot lately. Uh, okay. So let's unpin the Shopify, uh, question, because I wanted to make sure that we talk about that before we, um, before he ran at a time and forgets to talk about it.

So, uh, just tell us about that part of the story is, you know, getting onto Shopify and, uh, what were the, the, the next major, um, events that occurred as a result? 

[00:27:10] Mike Schmidt: So first off, I think that there's so much opportunity in the Shopify ecosystem. I think there's less than 10,000 apps in the Shopify app store today.

I started a company when I was in my dorm room in college, and I immediately went to the apple app store as a place where I could build for relatively low cost. And as like a developer designer, I was excited about sort of those opportunities and same with my team. Today, it's not necessarily true. Right? Like the app store is, or sort of reached that S curve of saturation where certainly there'll be a lot of really successful companies still in the future there.

But competition is in the low hanging fruit has just already been snapped up. Shopify feels young Mason and opportunistic. So when we went to Shopify, we picked very specifically. Where are the opportunities in this space? And we had a ton of Shopify store signing up to our, our, our existing platform. And we just started talking to them.

We said, what are the problems that you have right now? And everything sort of just seemed like the net promoter score was very low. So everything from like affiliate marketing solutions to influencer marketing solutions, there was some complaint about something or content solutions or something. And we just kind of felt like the infrastructure we had was very well aligned to solve the problems that they had.

So when we approached and the build on Shopify. I mean, we didn't really know anyone there or anything else like that. We just sort of started building their development documents are incredible. They're on the same level of Stripe or any other company. It felt like new world order for us when building there compared to like building on top of a social network where it's much more restrictive these days, it's like an, I mean, now for your first million dollars that you make on the, on the platforms, you take it all home.

Right? So there's no cut. It's very, very friendly for developers to build on. Not to mention just like the amount of merchants they use the platform today. So I think the latest number is like, what 1.7 million merchants that are on Shopify today. And then when you look at the landscape of e-commerce solutions, Shopify has the same philosophy as us.

They're the apple of palmer software, right? Like they have a ecosystem approach. They have platform approach. They help developers. They do all the things that you need to do to build a healthy technology company. And we were just like, it makes no sense to build on anything other than Shopify. So when we launched the application in may obviously you've been testing out with a couple of merchants before that it was sort of just like super well-received anytime we wanted to jump on with like their partner team or anything else like that, it felt very friendly and it felt like they were very open to feedback and it felt like everything just was awesome.

And we had never experienced that from any other company that we've kind of partnered with or, or built on top of. I just think that they're a very special company when it comes to like building things and supporting, and also in contrast to like other bigger technology companies that sort of squander and squash competitor.

It doesn't feel like Shopify will ever do that. So we also kind of looked at that as like a, a risk point and said, okay, if we launched this app, are we going to be replaced in the future by the tech company? Probably not. Um, so that, that gave us a lot of confidence going in. And then when we launched the app, it just sort of pick up featured.

It was like top trending app. Like it still isn't trending like for the last like two months. So it feels right to continue to invest in there. And we sign up like several thousand merchants since the, uh, since the start. And we have some other growth plans that we are probably going to be launching in September.

[00:30:44] Joseph: The next thing that I, that I want to ask you, I could pretend and say, this is for my audience, but realistically, this is also for me, uh, because after having done this for, uh, just over a year, It's, it's hard to resist the temptation to set up my own business and have a go at it. Um, which is why I did not resist that temptation.

And I gave him. And then also, you know, if anybody should be able to do this, they should be the guy who spent a blessed year. Receiving such high quality information for so long. So there's that, uh, however, like I was talking about with the bucket metaphor and the water filling in, I'm going through some analysis paralysis on my own right.

Opportunity paralysis, you know, a lot of options are coming in. I need, I, I'm looking for clarity here and now hoping my audience is looking for that clarity too. Um, for people who are just getting started and resources are scarce, um, what are some of the first steps that a brand can take to start using dovetale effectively?

[00:31:44] Mike Schmidt: So you can go to the app store on Shopify and download the app for free, super simple. There is we have a product led growth philosophy, similar to some of the biggest companies in the world. Twilio. You know, Salesforce, you know, any of the companies that have sort of led through like Xavier, even Shopify, like sort of like starting out, slow growing with the customer over time, again, like full philosophically.

We're not going to charge you two, $3,000 to sign up to the platform. Never be able to try it. And then just sort of committing to a piece of software before, you know, it's going to work. We believe that you should be able to start for free move into the tier that is most appropriate for you. As you grow your business, we grow our business and you feel much more aligned with, you know, paying, paying a little bit more money.

So, you know, I think that there's, it's really easy. Like we sign up a lot of free customers that are just curious about how to work with creators influencers, to start a community of people that love their products. And then we have people that come in platform frustrated with other solutions in the market, and they're like, we need to move things over super quick.

We have a month to move things over. Let's just get this. Let's just sort of bite the bullet and they're jumping right over to enterprise within the first like week. It's pretty accommodating, depending on what stage of company you're at. And we don't believe that we're going after just the enterprise market or just the SMB market we're going after the e-commerce market.

And we're going to arm every single Shopify merchant with our tool to help bring more opportunity to creators. So as friendly as I can make that to merchants. Is sort of the plan right now. 

[00:33:21] Joseph: Okay. So, so the next one, this one's a asked a more and more for the fun of it, but right now, the, uh, the bar for the most unexpected, um, realm for influencers to participate in has been horses get stethoscopes.

Um, just to continue to, I think, um, uh, break down the, the stereotype, but I think people have with influencers. I hear that. I think clothing, I think jewelry. I swimwear. Okay. I should maybe should have said that out loud. Um, but there are so many other things that influencers are, are involved in. So what have been some of the, the standout examples or some of the niches that maybe were even surprised to see where we're involving the influencer and community building?

[00:34:02] Mike Schmidt: There's so much diversity in clients from our X-rated stuff to you know, probably should keep it off the podcast, but there's a lot of diversity in clients. 

[00:34:15] Joseph: I mean, we don't, we don't, we don't really have those kinds of limitations once in a while. Somebody will be like, yeah, I'm going to say something pretty dark.

I'm like, go ahead. It's fine. 

[00:34:24] Mike Schmidt: Yeah. But one of the, one of the funnier one, like actually not necessarily funny, it's like, I just didn't know it was an industry, but it's called table scaping. It's like people that set up tables of like really cool designs and, and different things. I talked to a customer that has a huge business, by the way, just in people's scaping.

So plates and napkins and like different trinkets and things like that on the, on the table. And you know, it's a multi-million dollar business and they're just selling kits to kind of make your dinner table. Cool and unique and different things like that. It's a massive business on Pinterest and Instagram where people are kind of just like showing off the quality.

It's almost like if there was a competition or contest for just how well or how chic your, your table looks, it would be these, these individuals. I think the company is, there's probably a bunch of them in this space, but there's a bunch of companies that probably do really, really well. So that's probably the most surprising one within the last month or so, but I'd have to look through the archives.

I've seen so many different companies, but I just never thought that that was a business. And it turns out to be a huge, huge one. 

[00:35:33] Joseph: And are you finding brands have the ability to, or even if I'm not a brand yet, let's just say I'm just like, you know, a user and I haven't really settled on, on an, on a niche yet.

Uh, have you seen. Um, users can actually use the, uh, the, the, the influencer database to even try to figure out what are problems in. 

[00:35:54] Mike Schmidt: Yeah. I mean like the law of large average is suggests that if you have an idea that probably someone else's thought of it. So I think in this situation, because you're dealing with like the law of large averages across audiences that have curated attention, it's very, very likely that if you're selling come up with a very obscure product, like.

You know, googly eyes on top of a phone case or something like that. And there's like a market just for googly eyes on top of a phone case. There's probably other people that have probably thought about that or talked about it. So our database is so large that you can search very, very specific keywords.

A more common case of this is like, I want to find. Uh, mom that lives in Montana that has two French bulldogs, three kids, and has most of their audience based in the United States, those are more common kind of use cases around things, because like you can kind of bucket archetypes of creators into only so many different categories and even YouTube and TikTok have predefined categories up to 15 or 20. So there's only so much you can do, but there's obviously sub categories that you can think through. But in general, I think your question is interesting because. The more niche your product is the more niche those audience members will become. And the more niche those customers will become.

So if you can start a niche in the e-commerce direct consumer world, then you can probably find an interesting B2B opportunity, which is where these tablescape companies have built tremendous value because not only are they selling to families that want to make their tables really cool, but they're also selling like hotels and other places that can make it a little bit more presentable.

And then using that social traffic to get even more consumers, um, eyeballs on top of their products. So nice to win as sort of the philosophy there. And I would say that's why it's a very interesting question that you ask is because if you can figure out a niche and you can really say, for example, it's like cranberry hot sauce.

Like if, if you found that there's a particular community of people. Cranberry hot sauce, then that market can be targeted very, very specifically through all of your advertising. And then you can go build pineapple, hot sauce, and then you can go build apple hot sauce, and then all the other things to widen and broaden your market out.

[00:38:04] Joseph: Yeah, that was something that had surprised me too. It was something that I learned about. Um, on an episode, not too long ago is as nice as I thought I was, there was actually a much more territory to, to uncover, um, just quickly, you know, the product that I do ourselves, stick jurors to attach them to another side of the desk.

It makes us more efficient. And, and I was just, and I'm thinking I want to sell this to, you know, remote workers, but then the piece of advice that I had got was the remote worker is actually several different occupations. It's, there's a difference between the illustrator remote worker versus the, uh, the developer of remote worker, um, versus somebody who's doing customer service.

So even within the niche that I thought I selected, it's actually far more nice than that. And so I think what's encouraging is the ability to delve into those depths and discover what is the, uh, what is the bedrock or what is the core of this niche and be able to . Build up from. 

[00:38:59] Mike Schmidt: Yeah. What was your product again?

[00:39:00] Joseph: I stopped doing testing for it, by the way, there were certain pieces that don't work out so well with it. Um, it's a drawer plastic drawer. And if you have a flat surface under your desk where there's no like nails or screws or anything like that, it just sticks to it. And so I, I have a number of these in different parts of my apartment right now, just testing, making sure that they hold for a good long while.

And so, you know, you pull it out. Pencils, are there no pads are there. It makes my desk much cleaner because now there's not as much stuff on it as it was before.

[00:39:26] Mike Schmidt: In that case, like, it's, it's a really good example because you're looking for like the hyper organizers, the Marie Kondo fans, like you're looking for the people that have an obsession over organization, interior design, and sort of intersections between those types of things.

And there's a bunch of different trending groups between Instagram and Pinterest and different places where you can kind of like go to find those individuals. And then you can just optimize search to basically surface those, those types of people, which will convert highly, uh, as long as the content is created and in the right way. 

[00:39:58] Joseph: Which I will do by the way. I mean, once the, once in a while, I'm excited and eager to, uh, download an app and, uh, this will be one of them that I've downloaded onto my Shopify store. If it's still, I didn't have anything else. And, you know, it's, it's great to know that it's also a means to do the research and actually learn a little bit more about my niece, because we don't know, we don't.

Um, it's, it's a, it's a cheesy statement, but it's true. Like, I can look as far as I understand it, but I don't know where that needs actually starts and stops. Then that's, as far as my research can take me. So it is important to also have a discovery methods to actually go on an adventure and go digging and actually see, you know, where and that's where the inspiration is waiting for me.

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So this was the first thing that I had chambered, um, from the beginning, because you know, you've been in this space for a, for a good long while, and there was a name that came into my head, that name ring a bell?Yeah. It was a person. Uh, he was known like, I can't even remember exactly what I had probably around like early two thousands.

And he did any of this song called chocolate rain, but his voice was this booming, deep baritone everywhere. Like blown away by it. And he was very popular online and, you know, even, uh, even south park did an episode about the, in their, in it influencers at the time and is how everybody is dealing in theoretical dollars.

And no one is actually able to make any money off of this, just the, the, the economy wasn't there. So what I'd like to hear from you is, you know, your piece of the puzzle from your perspective is when did you start to see or an observed. People were actually able to start building income based off what they do online.

[00:42:07] Mike Schmidt: I mean, it's gotta be in the, the listen days. Like my last company, we were building an intention system as well, like the follow model and everything else. So we didn't get to the place where obviously Instagram or other social networks are these days where you can actually build a true platform and have monetizeable opportunities across.

But it's gotta to be around that time. When, you know, I was kind of graduating from engineering school. Obsessed with how Silicon valley culture worked and those types of things, and the opportunities to sort of build a really cool company and scale out to millions of users. Hopefully, potentially the, the thing I think the daunting moment for me was I just didn't really know how advertising worked back in the day.

And because they don't teach you that stuff in school, they don't teach you how, you know, portion of your audience has to be reached. And those people have to identify it as a value proposition or a need. And then people are clicking on ad units and doing what you want them to do. It's small percentages of huge spends that are, that are happening.

So I remember kind of going into advertising the advertising world, being, thinking that like I wasn't into advertising and didn't really know. What questions to ask if the whole point you make around not knowing what I don't know. It was very much sort of the world that I didn't know. And I sort of just treated every conversation as if I were like five years old and asking really simple questions to understand simple truths around the problems that were in the industry.

And it just seems like everyone was over-complicating things and charging a ton of money to make it happen. So when it comes to building software, I sort of see it as like a layer two. Democratizing and building access and you know, all these economic theories of what we're doing as well. But the first moments have got to be just round starting the company, like listen in the early days of like 2012, 2013 and 14.

So that was, that was kind of like the eye-opening moment where thinking, Hey, there's gotta be other ways for people to get attention in the same ways that Google was like interested in kind of organizing the world's information. We were thinking about it obviously a little bit different. But when we started a dovetail, we wanted to like build economic opportunity for the people on the internet that are sort of being forgotten by the social networks. And now actually just like Snapchat pays out people TikTok has their fund. Facebook just announced their fund for creators and different things like that. It's becoming much more commonplace, but definitely has not been like that for the last year.

[00:44:42] Joseph: There's, there's definitely a number of other things that I want to ask you, but the time is short. So I'm going to take up this rare opportunity to talk to somebody who's, uh, who's got an investor backing, so you're, you're, you're invested by an extra capital, same backers for Uber and Foursquare. And I would really like to hear about the relationship, you know, how was the investment acquired and then what is the working relationship with them?

Do they, is it just like we trust you? Just, do you guys do your thing? Do they come in? Do they ask questions? Do they participate? I I'm really, I can hearing about this relationship. 

[00:45:14] Mike Schmidt: I mean, expo is one of those rare firms where it feels like a true partnership. I think that there, and the reason I say rare is because there's just so much capital right now.

I don't, I have seen, I've talked to a lot of investors. I've talked to a lot of investors before raising the money from. dovetale. And when you meet their team, it's, there are different things that sort of click for you, especially when you're kind of going into the fundraising side of things, giving up equity, and you're going through potentially an emotional layer being like I'm giving up things.

Um, accepting new responsibilities and different things like that too. I've been pretty careful just around how much we give away and what we're raising. So we don't raise too much and grow with the market and appropriate pacing versus a lot of the companies in the social influencer, just analytics space in general, have more recently raised a decent amount of money, uh, compared to us.

But I think we've been playing it pretty careful and they, they understand kind of the, the philosophies that we have. The one great thing about expo is they believe in people. That's the thing. If you have an investor that believes in your idea more than they believe in you, I just think that that's a recipe for disaster.

So my framework has always just been, find people that believe in our team and how do we. How do we be successful with them? Because it is a true partnership. So every stage they're not, we're not under the microscope by any means. Dovetale is not being scrutinized on day-to-day tasks. We've messed up tons of times.

Right. But the thing is, is we learn, we move quickly, we get over it and we're continuing to try to build for our customers. So we've proven that throughout the last several years of doing this. But the project and with the company and the people, the big thing I want to say about expo is like they understand the product and engineering mindset.

They understand internet companies, they understand brand, they understand all of the different things you need to do to be successful. And it's certainly not easy. But the thing is, is that they're there for you not only emotionally, but also like physically, and just trying to make sure that you do the right things and watch your blind spots.

Because I think that's one of the biggest value adds that investors do. They don't tell you like how to build your product or what opportunities are out there. There's just the best investors. I found a message you at the right time and they say, Hey, have you thought about this? Or like, how you doing? Or like, what's going on?

And how can I help you do these specific things? The notable investor tagline is like, how can I help? But it's like, it's, it's two layers deeper than that. It's like, Hey. No, I saw this thing that you posted on LinkedIn or Twitter or something like that. I want to just check in and make sure you're okay about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

That's that's you helping much more informatively than just being like the laziness of just how can I help or what can I do to connect you, blah, blah, blah. Like there is lazy investor and then there's like, every, like I'm not saying anyone in particular is lazy investor, but there are lazy investors out there.

And I think that there are lazy things that you can do that define you as an investor and the benchmark for investment and venture capital right now is super high. So I'm thankful every day I get to work with the expert team, probably couldn't say a single negative thing about them. 

[00:48:18] Joseph: Alright, fantastic. It elevates, I guess my previous point of view on it and investors, I mean, I've really had no experience in that regard, so I don't know where one more time for the road. Right. I don't know what I don't know. And I don't know about their involvement and about, you know, how much they, you know, they value the people as well as the, the, the product being created.

Um, so, so that to me is a, is a pretty substantial takeaway. And that is actually the last takeaway that we've got time for. Um, so, uh, here's the wrap up question. Number one, I tend to do this more like an insurance policy kind of question, just, just in case there's an element to your service. And maybe I forgot to ask a question.

I just want to make sure if there's anything else you want to cover, here's a chance. And then, um, we'll I'll uh, we'll we'll do the actual, actual, actual wrap-up question. 

[00:49:04] Mike Schmidt: Cool. Nothing else specifically to wrap up on. 

[00:49:07] Joseph: Okay. Yep. That's what insurance is. I want once in a while it's important. Uh, okay. So the actual, actual, actual, actual wrap-up question is if there's any last bits of wisdom or advice, or like a Chinese proper proverb, be like sharing, feel free, and then let the audience know including me how they can, uh, look into this further.

[00:49:25] Mike Schmidt: I mean, my last kind of like parting piece here is if you're young and interested in building a cool thing, look at opportunities, uh, that not a lot of other people are looking at. Or earliest communities are looking at. So, shopify things in crypto right now are super exciting. Uh, certainly there's lots of exciting things in mobile and the apple app store and different things.

But I noted this earlier, but I think if you're young, it's really important to kind of look at the growth of a specific segment or industry and then kind of piggyback on those growth elements, DFI, crypto, NFTs, feel like that today. And I think that, you know, there's so much opportunity that I see in the creator world to do some really exciting things around that stuff.

Because of the nature of the world that we're in. I also see that opportunity for Shopify as well, given kind of like the new announcements that they're making around the space, but it's so exciting. I mean, like if you're like, there's never a better time to start than now to build something. And the one takeaway after tough tale is just like, if you are thinking about starting working with creators, influencers on these different social networks and stuff, like let's give it a shot.

It's free to start. You know what I mean? Where we put our money, where our mouth is, and we are super friendly, our support teams. Great. Our sales team loves to educate, loves to point you in the right direction. And if it's not the right solution for you, we'll just tell you, we'll tell you kind of like here's what you are potentially looking for.

But, um, the feedback we gather throughout that period is super important and it makes hopefully their lives easier. And it makes the platform stronger so that we can get more people opportunities. So. 

[00:50:57] Joseph: Fantastic. Well, uh, I'm a, I'm a man of my word. And when I say I'm going to go get something, I'm going to go get it myself.

So, um, I'm looking forward to signing up for this, myself and with my guest. Thank you so much for your time. It never ceases to amaze me how lucky I am to be in the position that I am today. Uh, great minds, uh, learn, learn about, you know, what's going on today, but what's going to be happening five years from now, 10 years from now.

Um, so I, I'm just very cognizant of that, uh, privilege and I'd want to acknowledge it. My audience, thank you all for your participation as well. It couldn't do this without you, so everybody, all the best take care and we will check in soon.

Thanks for listening. You might've found this show on many number of platforms, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google play, Stitcher, or right here on Debutify. Whatever the case, if you enjoy this content and want to help us thrive, please take a few moments to leave a review on apple podcasts or wherever you think is best.

We also want to hear from you. So whether you think you'd be a good guest or want to weigh in on anything related to our show, you can email podcast@debutify.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Finally, this podcast is created by the passionate team at Debutify. If you're ready to take the plunge into e-commerce or are looking to up your game, head over to debutify.com and see how it can change your life and the lives of many through what you do next.

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Joseph Ianni

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