One theme that has emerged as of late, completely unintentional by the way, is the large scale work towards binding ecommerce and businesses we come to know as household names. My guest today Nick Trueman is in no small part a contributor to this effort, one that in a holistic view of the industry at large I don’t know is being done consciously, it’s really more of an underlying organic movement. Nick is also an expert on Shopify, and his knowledge of the platform is immense, so it means a lot to get some of that here today.
Starting out in 2007 as a Junior Advertising and Marketing specialist, Nick has become one of the industry leaders in his field. He is currently the CEO at Just Ask Parker, a Shopify marketing agency, and the Owner / Director of Spec Digital, an expert PPC & SEO consultancy. Nick has particular expertise in business growth and will stop at nothing to help his clients increase revenue.
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Nick Trueman: [00:00:00] In terms of, yeah. In terms of understanding the customer, talk to them and don't take what they say is the answer. Take it in, digest there. Try to think where's the question come from. What's causing to us that question, where are we sitting right now? Should we ditch this client? Should we start looking for another one to replace them. Go through that process. Don't just, if they say, oh, you guys should do this. They just do it, you know, process it and think about what has been said and therefore what should be done as well, and you can see the importance of it.
Joseph: [00:00:34] You're listening to Ecomonics, a Debutify podcast. Your resource for one of the kind of insights into the world of e-commerce and business in the modern age. This is Joseph. I'll be presenting a wealth of industry knowledge from interviews, with successful business people and our own state-of-the-art research. Your time is valuable so let's go.
One thing that has emerged as of late completely unintentional, by the way, is the large scale of work towards binding e-commerce and businesses we come to know as household names. My guest today, Nick Trueman is in no small part a contributor to this effort. One that in a holistic view of the industry at large, I don't know if it's being done consciously. It's really more of like an underlying organic movement. Nick is also an expert on Shopify and his knowledge of the platform is immense. So it means a lot to get some of that here today.
Nick Trueman. It is good to have you here on Ecomonics. Everything that we just recorded, I thought it'd be fun, to keep that all in cause that was all fun. And how are you doing today? How are you feeling?
Nick Trueman: [00:01:37] Yeah. Good, good. I'm looking forward to the world opening up after this coronavirus a locked down nonsense. I say nonsense is quite serious my wife is a doctor, but yeah. Good to, good to finally have a roadmap out of this for a lot of these countries, vaccines aren't et cetera, but how are you doing anyway?
Joseph: [00:01:52] Um, I'm not bad. Um, quick, quick backstory for me, which is, uh, the audience. I'm only telling the audience this because I've been like letting them know about it. It's like this little, a story arc happening in amongst these Ecomonics episodes but any minute now they're going to start drilling on our balcony and a front desk.
Well, I'll just use a laundry room to go to the laundry and laundry is locked. So, so many is going to get a tersely worded email, uh, between now and 2:00 PM. When I added to my next one and they brought you one you're with, uh, a spec digital and just ask Parker. And I want you to let our audience know what these are about. So tell us who you are and what you do.
Nick Trueman: [00:02:25] Sure. So I'll give you a very, very short story. So I rewind the clock back. I used to work for an agency ironically next door to where I am now. I've gone full circle, um, a bit like a helix. I've kind of gone like there, but up at the same time. Um, but yeah, so I started out working for a little agency when I was 17 years old. Um, I needed to buy a car and a friend of mine just started a PPC agency on Google ads. So I was there for a bit quit after two years cause I had eight staff was very, very stressed. My boss was never around and quit and started my own business doing PPC and learn SEO on the way somebody bought that from me in 2013. All SEO, PPC related, couple of stuff, nothing big, you know, sort of very small and simple and then worked for new owners. And that is how we went from sort of small local family owned businesses, the big corporates. And then in 2015, I successfully exited. So I left for goods and I tried to a second time tried to get out of the PPC SEO world. They hated working for agencies, et cetera. Um, but I had bills to pay. So I picked up a few projects working for a TJ Maxx, as you know them in the US, TK Maxx in the UK. Um, Virgin trains was part of the Virgin groups like Virgin Atlantic, et cetera, but they run some were, they were not anymore, but they were running some train lines in the UK, um, and various other. So I picked up those contracts, I think, got a bit busy. So I employed a, an assistant, which then turned into two assistants, which then we decided, well, let's grow this thing.
You know, let's, let's get on the consultancy route. And that's where spec digital came from a spec as we go by, but we're not precious by any means. Um, there we go by spec. Spec was actually my nickname. When I started wearing glasses, my friend called me specs and I called him hat man. Um, which is the, uh, non-public stories that don't tell anyone.
Um, but the public story is that spec works for specialized perspective, et cetera. And for the last sort of six years now, spec is very much evolved out of wanting to give consultancy. So we're an agency does lots of doing and they'll manage your Google account and, you know, get you better click costs on Google ads or do a bit of SEO work in the background, it's all kind of witchcraft and dark magic. Spec, take the opposite approach. We're going to train the client, how to do things. We're going to get the client doing lots of the work with our input. And that means we sometimes end up in very, very strange projects. All of which is by our motto, which is by any means. Say we will get somebody to the top of Google or more important than actually getting since suffocating is increasingly helping them get more and more customers, et cetera. And then June last year, I had a chat with a good friend of mine called Caroline, who ran a business and is the founder of a company called just ask Parker. And Caroline and I basically agreed that I was going to come in CEO. Since June I've been running my own podcast, I'm the, she had started up and we'll talk about that later.
Um, and then I became, I came in as the CEO of Parker and my job since June 2020 is I've got this sort of very high-end spec digital consultancy, where we're very expensive. We're not very expensive, but we're quite expensive for the industry. Very expensive for our size. We taken a lot of unique clients that have very interesting, unique challenges. And then you've got Parker, which essentially Shopify only, and you just kind of buy some credits and spend the credits on tasks. So my job has been looking at this enormous chasm between the two. So you've got these tiny little startups, Shopify stores, and anyone listening has heard of something called Brexit, which apparently has been on the news all over the world, quite a lot. Um, we're sick to death of it in the UK, but a lot of us now support it, um, because of that has got even more complicated with Parker because it's now registered in the UK with customers in Europe. But we won't talk about it today because it's an absolute minefield of legalities and tax. And, but anyway, my job has been trying to sort of cross the chasm between the two specs my business, Parker is now part of my business and Caroline's, they're very much involved and parker is growing like mad and we've hired some more staff here in London and the UK to look after parker or really grow and scale it. Um, but then we're trying to sort of cross this chasm, getting spec, the spec team to do work for Parker clients, creating premium tasks, um, and ultimately trying to work out what the problem.
And we're talk about latex. It's quite an interesting, um, kind of digital economic process of trying to work out what. What is good and bad about the Parker offering and how we can make it more premium without it becoming, um, you know, without losing money. Are still making money really interesting that's why I got involved in it, but those are the two kind of main businesses that, uh, that I, that I work with and, and focus on.
Joseph: [00:06:31] That's great. And one thing I wasn't, it was actually a couple of things I wasn't expecting, but one of the things I wasn't expecting is, um, I'm looking, I looked at Parker and I looked at spec and I was just trying to get a sense of where they were in scale and what a level of clientele that they were working with.
So it didn't occur to me that, uh, Parker, I would say more entry-level, um, uh, smaller businesses, uh, some sort of, yeah, I can just some of your prior experience, which was working with, um, uh, smaller businesses and family businesses. So that through line never went away. It's just, it just was repurposed into, uh, Parker.
And then what it sounds like the challenge is, is that you're looking for ways to, I guess, even transition people who are on parker, into spec digital. So what would be like the entry point for spec digital? What would be like the, the, the lower end of the, uh, client base before they can get into spec, basically.
Nick Trueman: [00:07:21] Yeah. Yeah. What's really interesting with spec actually is when I felt like as a business owner and a lot of business owners relate to this, you get very stuck in the day-to-day and you start making up myths in your own mind of how things actually are. So one of the myths in my mind that I put to death about two years ago, spec, is that we work with all the big names.
So we just worked with big high street, retail brands, airlines, train lines, companies you've heard of. And if you haven't heard of it, if you haven't heard of them, we don't want to work with them. And I genuinely believed that for a few years. Then when I looked at my customer base, our smaller clients in terms of contractual fees, where the larger names. Now, I think they're still, they're still good to have. And we still target them. We get very excited when we bring one on board. And when you say somebody, oh, we've just pitched to so-and-so and it sounds like we're down to the last two and the rest thing goes, wow, I love that brand. But actually a majority, probably 60, 70% of the revenue at spec actually comes from businesses that most of you wouldn't have heard of.
Unless you have a very particular problem or thing, or a very particular need on that day. And then it might be the name that you sign up to an insurance. Um, you know, some insurance cover by one of our clients, and then you don't even hear their name again for the next five years. You just stay with them and have a good experience.
So we realized actually our ideal client was not the big ones. We always want a few because it looks good. And it's a really good justification if you, if we say, oh, we're currently working with Sona dine. No, one's heard of them because they make solar equipment for submarines and wind farms and stuff.
And, you know, nobody's heard of them, but actually they've been there. They're quite a large contract to us and the client that we really, really love. Um, so it's, I think it's good to have a balance, but the entry point for us is it's less about how much money you've got. Because we think that the fees we charge, they will be expensive when you put them up against another company.
But the time between you joining us and signing up for a service from us and the time of you making profits out of the work we do should be less than, I mean, I'd say 12 months is an absolute max. Some clients it's within the first month or most clients is sort of three to six months. We've earned them more money than we've cost when you take all of their own costs.
So we've generated more profit than our fees have been. And we've got a plan to scale. So an insurance company would take on and have about 20 different websites. They're acquiring other companies for fun. Um, and we have two other clients in similar industries doing the same sort of thing. We love that because every day there's like a new, you know, staff members are changing quickly.
Their investors have bought another company and merged them in say the starting point for us, it's not expensive, but we were in the process of repositioning ourselves. There'd be more of a performance agency or performance consultancy with the tagline being by any means. So if we have to write content design web pages, we will, we don't go to market for those services.
We just go down the customer acquisition route. So SEO, PPC. Um, but for example, some of our clients, I think our smallest ones spends about 2000 pounds a month with us on, on Google ads. There's not much at all. And then even their marketing and Moxie director and managing directors, we call them directors in the UK and CEO for you guys or founders.
Um, but I think the, even those guys initially, when we said, well, let's spend about 2000 pounds or dollars a month sort of thing. Um, they were kinda like, wow, that's crazy money. And then we say, well, how much the customer worth? So how many, how many leads do you need to get a customer? And then how much therefore does a lead needs a bit needs a cost.
And they often come back saying, Oh, we need two leads. We need two leads a month and we can spend 5,000 pounds getting those two leads. And one of the two will convert into a customer. So we've rebuilt what of our reporting system has over the last three years to reflect exactly that sort of equation.
So we literally have this big, it's not, we haven't actually visualized it as a funnel yet. That's the next phase, but the numbers are all there and yeah, the spreadsheet, you know, kind of spreadsheets or in a PDF showing you like here's a much, we spent here's many people we've reached here's how many people come into the site?
Here's how many leads we've had. And then we've note saying, how are we going to trim this bit back or widen it depending on what we're trying to do at the time. But it really is all about ROI. So then we can actually give them a thing saying where you spent your 2000 pounds last month with us, but actually we generated a hundred leads and 40 of them have become customers.
And you told us we only needed two. So can we have four grands next month? Yes. You can have 4,000 pounds next month. Of course you can have 10, you know, and it just starts scaling from there. And it's not easy by any means. And some months you do go backwards and seasonality comes to play, but certainly we're not expensive, but we do have that conversation quite early on with clients sort of saying, what is the plan like at what point would you throw the kitchen sink at your Google ads account just to spend as much as you can.
And I think it's important with onboarding and pitching to be really open about that. We've actually gone from us sort of, you know, kind of when do we really want to work with these guys? So actually a qualification process and actually setting the ground, the ground frames, the client comes back to us.
When can we grow this budget? And it's at my expense, really rare for the clients to be saying that. But I think about 30% of our PVC clients asked us in the last month, because we keep a record of when they, if they ask us to up the budget, well, by the time it gets to the end of the next month, we have our next catch-up, the answer will absolutely be yes, we will find some way of spending it on something that's going to. Um, you know, yield rewards say, certainly we're not, we're not big on day one, but we will be big in 12, 24, 36 months.
Joseph: [00:12:15] And I think it helps too. I think one of the access for all of this essential access is the idea that there are clients with, uh, reputations behind them that are generally accepted by the public. So if anytime, someone is feeling skeptical from the clients and all they would have to do is refer to, uh, businesses that are, uh, public and, or they'll show up in the, in the news and show up on websites and show them people's Facebook posts and say, well, you know what, if they, they w they wouldn't a disparage that these people's names, they wouldn't.
Nick Trueman: [00:12:41] I mean, we wouldn't be allowed to use their name. I have gone wrong. So, yeah. Yeah. It's important.
Joseph: [00:12:45] Um, one thing that I, I can't help but wonder about is, I guess, getting past that veil of working with somebody that you already have prior familiarity with, I think one of the issues is there's this, like, it's almost like I appreciate the way that you referred to almost like a miss for like different businesses and brands.
They almost take on like a mythological status because they're, we're always on the receiving end and they're always in control of our destiny. So to get past that veil and to not actually be the ones now controlling their destiny, um, I'm wondering a little bit more about the experience of, I guess if you got comfortable with it, I don't know.
It seemed to be putting on a good face, but getting comfortable with working with something that not only do you have your own personal emotional investments with, but you realize that this success will have a tangible impact on my own life. People I know are you are consuming this brand people around me are I consume this brand.
This will have a huge impact on my reputation. And it's almost like disproportionate the versus working with a brand that is largely behind the scenes and the same amount of work, really good job on both of them, but one will have a much more, uh, pronounced effect on your perception.
Nick Trueman: [00:13:49] I think it's an interesting equation. So there's like three or four things that just popped into mind from what you've just said. I think one of them is, and we play this game with clients. Sometimes we ask a room of people at the client, you know, the business working with, um, who's your target customer. And they will write down some stuff.
And then we go through the slides, you know, right. What age group, if you pur and everyone goes, oh, it's, you know, TJX, for example, a T T J Maxx, TK Maxx, et cetera. And on the TJX. And they'll say like, Oh, you know, young, young trendy people and we'll say, no, it's not. And put the data from the screen, just Google analytics, you know?
And it's been a bit of a rough estimate from GA, but yeah, it shows like actually you probably only got 20% of your audience in the bracket that everybody in the room has written down. And then, you know, what gender are they? Where are they based that sort of stuff. And I think it's never been more true for our side as well.
The consultancy to look at our own clients and go, what who's our target client and actually is kind of one really big name nine. You've never heard of them, but they've got loads of cash. We're ready to scale them. Revenue. You know, advertising turns into revenue pretty quick. There's not like a two year lead time between an inquiry and an actual client signing up, et cetera.
So I think it's interesting to look at, look at things like that. I've completely slipped from my mind. Something else you mentioned. Um, I'll come back to if I can remember. Cause that was a really good catch phrase we use internally for, but I can't remember. It was, um, the other point it's going to make those around.
You said about something working on something that you're quite passionate and emotionally invested in. We're really big on that. So actually what I'm drinking right now is from the rare tea company who one of our clients, um, and we had them on the pot, on my podcast, my Shopify podcast, back in Jan, and they were talking about, I mean, we got to a point where I had to say to Henrietta is becoming a good friend of mine over the last year.
I would say, I had to say to her, like, I'm really sorry to have to do this, but I'm just going to hook us back from talking about how we've helped an entire community in Nepal, keep their jobs, during coronavirus, by selling their T back to Shopify. Talk about a couple of weeks questions that have come in from our listeners that I really want to cover sort of thing.
Um, but I think it goes to show that we're really, really hot on working with companies that are doing good things that are working, you know, working in an ethical way. Um, I'll give you an example as well, but we try to be quite transparent. I'll be really, really humble in saying this. I had a client who called me up last year and I don't say this lightly at all.
And the team, we're all aware of this now, because six months ago, a client called me up and said, we need to have a bit of a chat. One of your team has let us down a little bit. Um, hasn't done what we need to, um, and they, you know, they'd sort of really kind of tiptoed into this conversation needs to be careful here.
I don't want Nick going, you know, getting all defensive and, you know, we're just trying to get the best result here. And we really love spec, but just the individual and your team that's been on this particular thing. It's just not working out very well. And my first response was actually to say, ruler, I'm not going to beat around the Bush. I'm, I'm glad that you and I have a relationship where you can just call me up and say this. And actually, if you feel this about anything else, let's have this conversation now, because I can only deal with what I know and I thought this might happen. So I am already working on this particular issue. We are discussing internally our processes for you as a client and how we service you because we appreciate results are great.
The communication's not so good. And that's why you guys want to keep working with us. You want the results and it's better than you've ever had. Some of the communication's not quite been where it needs to be. And that's because some of the systems we're trying to put in place, you've got a completely new team and we've probably tried to be a bit heavy handed, putting our processes on you rather than agreeing what the processes should be.
And we built completely new processes for now using two other clients as well that we signed since that conversation. So I think, I think it's the ethics and processes of how businesses function I think is really, really key. And in this day and age, everybody knows it. You can't hide, you know, if one of our staff left because they were pissed off at me.
You know, excuse my French, but you thought about it. Like it would be on social media know and how I communicate that to clients would, you know, is really important. So I personally think in this day and age, if somebody leaves a job just saying, they're going to be moving on, that says they've been fired.
So even if they have, we tried to make sure the lingo from our side is, you know, they've been at for three years, they've been there. They're looking at new opportunities at the moment. Good signs to move on for them. And we're going to support them in that. You know, and it's a, it's a very different, very different approach.
Then everyone's kind of friends and everybody gets the best out of what we're trying to do. Cause I think often when it breaks down between a supplier and a, an, a client, um, you know, a supplier and a buyer sort of thing, it always breaks down where communication's not right. Or people were expectations have been different.
That sort of thing. It's never in my, in my experiences when I say never it's rarely because the work itself is not been good enough or performance isn't good enough. It's often, you know, they just feel like they don't talk to us enough. That's a re that's a quick reason for somebody to ditch their agencies.
And I think, um, yeah, I think it's part of the reason I sort of been around the block a little bit. It's slightly older than I look. And then, um, yeah, tried to, trying to build a business that tackles those problems. It's a breath of fresh air for when clients come in. They're like, I love these guys and we had a glowing bit of feedback.
It's gonna be on our website. Um, when we do eventually relaunch the new, uh, the new positioning, um, one of our clients said, you guys are, you guys at spec are now the benchmark for all of our agencies. So if they don't communicate and operate and respond as quickly as you do. And in return for responding quickly, I used to think with set the wrong expectation, it's actually been the complete opposite by responding quickly.
They never chase us because we've already done it. And if they do email us, it's only like the odd email here and there, and it's five minutes to reply and they're quite used to us replying saying, Oh yeah, good point. Let's talk about that at the end of, you know, end of the month on our next call sort of thing.
It makes things a bit easier. I think.
Joseph: [00:19:07] Well, even just listening to you right now, your, your communication skills are, uh, are tantamount. I mean, it's been, I think like 25 minutes and so far, and I'm just like, Just like holding on to it so I can definitely see that. And I think it raises an important, um, matter to that, uh, within your agency, you know what work you're doing, you you're, you're quite confident in that, but the, the, the agency or the client they do, it's the communication that they really need to see it because they're not going to see the, the process.
They're not, uh, standing over at your desk, a hovering or watching on a, on a stream or anything like that. So there are, so there's a lot of trust work. The communication is what we use to make up for the, I don't to say lack of trust, but there is a quota of trust that needs to be fulfilled, and it can only be solved one of two ways through communication and setting high standards for communication, or having a live stream of all the work done so they can watch it unfold in real time, which is absurd.
So option A's is a lot more practical.
Nick Trueman: [00:20:05] Yeah, I think as well, like it's yeah. I think so many agencies are chasing their tails and we, we went through a periods. I wouldn't say when, because it wasn't, it wasn't a million years ago. And we went through a period where we stopped taking new work on because we realized that our turnaround times to slipping everyone was feeling a bit stressed.
Um, I mean, I'll tell you when it was actually, because it kind of makes the point a bit, a bit harder, um, hit, but certainly it was during lockdown. So we weren't all in the office together. We are planning to be back. I think one of the few businesses right now is openly. Just, no, no, we'll be in the office.
We need to be, we need to be a team to support you, our clients. And we very much know, you know, everybody here is completely clear that, um, we serve as clients first because it's clients create revenue, which pays everyone else. So you can't have the staff without the client. And it's only everybody sitting there with a fire under their chairs, kind of I'm going to be fired if this goes wrong.
Um, you know, we're very secure as a business, but we know we put the brakes on new business for a little bit, just a few, just for a few months. And we let a couple of clients go that we didn't really enjoy working for and thought we're going to leave anyway. And we sort of, it was either we were going to tell them or they were going to tell us, and we, we just put the brakes on for that, but it did a bit of a reassessment and we've done it again recently, as we've got a couple of people who have just joined in the last last month, let's say, and we're looking to hire again towards summer.
And because of that, it's a good chance to take a step back and look at our client list and go who's best servicing these people. As an agency as well, one of the biggest challenges. And, um, because I understand who the audience is. I probably should have asked for hit record, but understand who we're talking to to understand what steps to go into on this.
But I think one of the biggest challenges and biggest questions I've had in my mind for probably five or six years now, since I've been running spec, the question really is like, how do you break the business down into teams, segments? And do you have a sort of PPC department, SEO department? Do you have an e-commerce department versus lead gen?
Because those are the two things our clients need. So some of them, a few that crossover and what we've ended up with is we've ended up with one PPC department and then an SEO lead gen department and an SEO eCommerce department, just because the SEO side involves lots of updating the website and updating the website is very, very different between e-commerce and between legions and legions about form fills e-commerce about buying products.
So we've always had that of, well I've always had certainly that question. And through lots of good experiences and one or two bad ones, we've made massive headway towards that. And actually longer term, we probably will split up the PPC team as well and see lead gen and shopping. Say some people would just run shopping campaigns and Google, the other team will do everything else.
Then we'll have a third team that will look after the paid social, which is something we, we don't do on its own. But we do it as part of a bigger service. We're not, you know, we're not out and out consultants in it like we are. And partly because I don't think anybody ever can be with how quickly, you know, Facebook business manager seems to get better and worse every time they do something.
So, um, yeah. All good fun. But so who's listening to us anyway. Like what, what sort of audience are we talking to? And then I can angle some of these answers to those people.
Joseph: [00:22:53] I've one of the things that's important in order to answer your question is that I was encouraged listeners to listen in chronological order because I think it's better for their understanding over time. They'll notice my questioning gets a little bit more informed. And so where we are now in that, in that journey is that we are accomplishing a number of things.
One of them is that we're just kind of like. Brett, we're exploring the e-commerce space as much as we can. We want to meet the different agencies. We want to learn what, uh, what you're up to. We want to understand where are some goals that people can attain for themselves? Because one thing that I've seen, which is, uh, very evident, which is all of the people that we are talking to in the drop shipping space, they use drop shipping as a means to build their capital, and then they move on and do other things.
Nick Trueman: [00:23:46] And we can talk about drop shipping in a minute? So I have some very extreme views on it, which we can talk about in a sec.
Joseph: [00:23:51] Yeah. So, uh, this is, this is Shopify country, so we definitely wanna get your Shopify expertise. And I think this is as good as a transition into that as, as any, I also. Uh, I, I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say about drop shipping.
Oh, I overall have a positive view towards it, but also because I'm very, like, I'm a very slow learner, so I'm like.
Nick Trueman: [00:24:08] We're going to have fun then when we reach that.
Joseph: [00:24:10] Yeah. Well, you know what, um, I just want to hear it, but have I fully answered the question? Do you feel like you're, you're ready to move on to, uh, okay, so act two.
Nick Trueman: [00:24:21] Absolutely. No, that sounds good. And I think, um, yeah, I think just on that point as well, just for anyone listening, I think the, just to be really clear that just ask Parker side of things is purely Shopify. Um, I did. When you mentioned earlier that you're in Canada, I was instantly, my head was thinking like about five or six of my friends have moved over to work for Shopify into Francais. So I've not been out to Canada, myself, but I is on my list. Canada and South Africa are very much in my, uh, my hit list for, um, probably 20, 22 now. Um, but yeah, let's see what drop shipping. So at Parker, we are a Parker is a Shopify expert. Spec is in the process of getting on the Shopify plus partner program as well.
And what that means is you can go on the Shopify plus partner pro program, and you can go into the Shopify experts area as a store owner. All right. Somebody works for a, you know, an eCommerce business and you can buy services in. Now through that button, we get so many people at Parker, probably, probably a majority of our customers come through that.
So then we've also got the podcast. We've got our course, we've got some good SEO, we run PPC stuff. So we've got loads of ways people can find us. And we've got word of mouth, which equally as, as important actually as the Shopify badge, but through Shopify, we get. Some days we get tons and tons of inquiries.
Hence why I'm employed Byron who's my colleague, and had him on the podcast for the first time, a few weeks ago. Um, and Byron basically manages that, you know, the Shopify thing, doing sales, essentially, you know, talking to people about their requirements, et cetera. And we get so many who come along and want drop shipping.
Now, let me give you the pros and cons that are public, and then I'll give you Nick's pros and cons. So the pros and cons that are public are the pros are, you don't have to stock anything and choose whatever products you want to have a massive online store. And off you go the cons, you don't really get, it was difficult to do anything because you're bound by what people have already got.
And then you basically were most of your time writing your own product descriptions and changing it all because you don't because you're taking products at the same feed as everybody else. Pretty thousands of other stores around the world, selling exactly the same items with the same product titles, meta descriptions, product descriptions, spec, all the rest of it.
You don't really have a differentiator. So then next view on it. I love the concept and I've been tempted to run my own drop shipping company for a very long time. The way I only would do it though. And I think this is quite different to the traditional, especially with Shopify dropshipping. I would run it by contacting brands directly and saying, can you distribute stuff and we'll sell it.
And we actually had an idea of doing that for any past clients of spec. And just saying to them that we know where your challenges, we know that, you know, it didn't work out with us or we left you sort of things. It wasn't working, but why don't we sell your products for you and you just do the logistics and give us 50% of whatever the profit is.
So if you've got a 50% profit margin, you have 25%, we have 25%, the other 50 covers yeah. Covers costs of products and you sending it out, et cetera. So you'll get 75%. So if you give us a trade price of 25%, basically off as a margin, we'll drop ship Hill. That was the idea. And now the reason I don't like it is lots of people.
There's a phrase in starting businesses and I'm not a big fan of the startup world as well as we went to let today. But, um, there's a lot of people in the startup world who just go, wow, it's too good to be true. And in the business world of it's too good to be true. It is. Well, what do you need in the business world?
And this is why I've got sort of one good business. It's changed form had been sold. And I started another thing doing essentially the same thing, but better. The reason that I, the reason I'm still doing that is because all of my side projects have failed. I've run a telecoms company, I've run my own Shopify store.
I tried drop shipping very briefly. I tried a lead gen generating leads company. I tried an app building company. I tried a training business. I've tried the loads of other businesses and there's two reasons they fail one didn't focus on it enough. And two, it all looked too good to be true in hindsight, which is partly why I've now just gone.
We'll parker as part of what's back there anyway, at different level. It's a one thing podcast as part of that, the training we do see now as the clients, it's all part of that. It's all under one banner, which I'm good at. And I've got a lots of USP's in there. We're drop shipping too many people. I've just gone on drop shipping.com.
I don't even have that as a thing, but found a drop shipping site has got a Shopify feed. What? To let a products up. Tried it for a while wasted $20,000, you know, trying to get this thing, working contact, and it's a bit of a rant.
Joseph: [00:28:34] No, no, no, no. This is, this is rant friendly territory by all means. Go ahead.
Nick Trueman: [00:28:38] Excellent. Well, having a sip of tea in a sec. Um, but yeah, the contact is something that just ask parkers and look, we're a massive business to do X, Y, Z, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then we've seen on that when they've gone on the Shopify portal to find the expert and contacted us, it has the drop shipping box techs.
We look on the site and just start copy and pasting a few product names, a few product descriptions onto Google and 50 sites come up and they're not even one of them. So if they're exact match product titles don't appear. They don't have a USP. There's no reason to buy from them. There's nothing about customer service.
There's no review platform. And even if they had all of that, so does everybody else. So what's the USP. So that's where people who don't drop ship, people who make their own products. I think have a bit of a disadvantage because I have to deal with all the products, you know, their actual manual logistics of getting them out and storing them and, you know, checking what's in stock and inventory systems and whatnot.
But the advantage they have is they can adapt their product range to solve a problem. So I'll take my shoe off and show you my shoe because I shout these guys out a lot on the podcast. We've never actually met them. They're called Tropic fail. So this shoe, sorry, it's a little bit desk it's due for a wash is made from six recycled bottles.
That's a USP. It doesn't have proper laces, so there's no lace there it's elastic. So the whole thing is very, very stretchy. And I, I, for one, I can do my laces. I just can't be bothered. So again, it solves problems for me. Um, it they're based in Barcelona. It arrived in two days during coronavirus, that's a USP for me, it was part of Shopify.
So on the, on Shopify shop app, I had all the ups information being delivered to me, had a little issue with it being delivered. So I sent them an email. They responded instantly. Will I buy from them again? Yes, I absolutely will. Where are their products from? They made them, they're not the cheapest, but these, these shoes should last bear in mine.
I wear these shoes every single day. These shoes should last me probably I reckon two to five years. Whereas my normal shoes, probably three or four months, maybe six, if I'm wearing it every day, that's nine can Adidas and brands like that. So I think, yes, I think they've got a USP and I think drop shipping can work, but I think there's so many challenges around it.
And the biggest one is the people starting, those drop shipping businesses are not marketing people. They're not web developers, they're not brand designers. They don't know how to do it. So then when you go on the news and you hear about these dropshipping stories of this person made $200 million in their first year of dropshipping.
Yeah, because they're the one in a thousand who actually knew what they were doing before they started say again, I don't mean to rant too much, but we've seen that so much in Shopify as, as much as I love Shopify, they told us on the podcast for Christmas, I had Tim summon. Who's a good friend of mine from the Shopify plus team.
He told me that Shopify in the UK doubled in size in Q2 of last year in terms of number of stores. So however many stores they had at the end of March, they had twice as many at the end of June last year.
Joseph: [00:31:27] And was this, uh, analyzed within a year or are you talking about, like to date in March and then that number does?
Nick Trueman: [00:31:33] Th th the total volume of registered Shopify stores in the UK at 31st of Jan, um, doubled by the 31st of June. So they literally, if they had spent five years gaining stores, they doubled that in in three months.
Joseph: [00:31:46] So there's a couple things, uh, that I, that I wanted to touch on, um, uh, points that were raised, uh, mid rant. So one of them is, um, my perspective on this, uh, is somewhat unique, I guess, thankfully I have this unique perspective because, um, prior to this, and I'm just, uh, doing media, uh, mostly working locally, doing freelance, editing, all that good jazz.
And I apply for this job to be the podcast host here. And so I'm having my own skepticism, not just about drop shipping, but about the whole thing. So when I hear the term is too good to be true, thankfully for me, the truth was revealed very early on because I was getting paid. And so that does help to like, okay, well obviously they make money doing this.
Otherwise they wouldn't be able to pay me through it. So I go in with, I have this term I made up like four weeks ago, call like, what is a bedrock? It's like rock bottom, but positive. So like, okay, well this is my bedrock. The industry is, is functional and it does work and there, and there isn't money to be made here.
So that's good. So now I'm beginning to explore from there. Uh, swim my way up. So I'll, I'll give you my, my opinions on, uh, on drop shipping as well. Just to help kind of like summarize this for, for our audience is that you really do have to meet it. I think that's the simplest way that I can say this. So a lot of these, um, experiences that you're describing are people who are just kind of almost gambling or they just put a bunch of phonics up and they're, they're not putting like, you know, five bucks on red, but they're putting, you know, $200 on something rather red object, a red book.
And, and they're just seeing what takes. And so everything seems to come across as gambling because gambling can very easily appeal to the get rich, quick, you know, in the span of a day, because, uh, went with a million dollars. And it's not, um, it, it, it does come back to the fundamentals about what, as you say, as solving a problem, this is what we talk about when we're being trained on this.
Does this solve a problem? And if so, what is the unique position you can take when you're marketing it to other people? So there are, so I actually find it a lot more encouraging and comforting. The more challenges I encounter, because it shows me that I, there, the harder, this is the more legit it makes it.
And I'm one of the things too, I guess I wanted to point out is that, cause you were talking about how you wanted to, um, work with different manufacturers and you kind of wanted to sell them their behalf. I'm not sure exactly the specific business breakdown of it, but it sounds like it was like a private, it would be private labeling where you would run your own store, you would sell their product, but they would brand it your brand.
So because you're, you're basically doing the selling, is that right? Or was it, you were selling their brand on their behalf?
Nick Trueman: [00:34:18] We just literally went for the light wholesale approach. So we just took thousands of brands, Chuck them on a wig web page on Shopify set up the integration, which took no touch Shopify, make it too easy again, in my opinion.
Um, and we were just kind of batching it, some of the drop shipping companies that have done it really, really well. And I don't, I don't know if you guys have heard of these, this company, but they're called sports direct here in the UK. Um, so sports direct is owned by a very well-known British businessmen who also owns new costs.
So FC football club and, um, how's the phrase, the Devin M's, there's quite a lot of the UK. Everybody knows who they are. Um, but sports direct is exactly that. So their website, I order some stuff yesterday and it's coming in two different packages. So it's things like that where it's clearly drop shipping and they actually dropped shipped direct from the brands where they can.
Um, I might be wrong in it, but it looks exactly like that. And I think they've done it well because it's all, um, last seasons sportswear. So it's not, I can add it as from last year. Um, and therefore it's that discount prices. So they have a reason to do a bit like TJ, TJ Maxx, you know, there's, it's all sort of last season stuff.
So apps that you find it all still brand new, it just wasn't sold during the seasons. So TJ Maxx pick it up kind of thing. So I think, um, yeah, I think. There are, there are types of drop shipping that I think work well. And that's the way that we, when we did the kind of that approach, the way we almost did it.
Well, we didn't actually launch it. The Ember, we were just contacting companies in the UK with terrible websites that did wholesale and said, look, you've got all this stock in your warehouse. If you can send stuff out one by one yourself, one, as I say, is, is it early? And it's 25, 25, 50% splits. Why, why don't we sell the products for you?
And you just distribute them out. So where your trucks turn up to do all your wholesale stuff. Why doesn't another truck from DPD roll mail ups, whoever just turn up and pick up all of the customer orders and send those out. And we'll just do next day delivery and everything. Um, and they were a couple companies, a very key one was a tire company.
So you could just buy another tire and then just drive down to your local tire garage and say, can you fit this tire on this wheel for me? And they just did it. So things say again, saving money with stuff like that. But, um, yeah, so we didn't, we didn't the whole, the massive kind of batch, just tens of thousands of brands didn't work at all.
And I think what we would have needed to have done is gone down the route of probably having. Like amazing customer service, so live chat and stuff like that. So people could actually ask questions and have proper collections so that they could, yeah. People could see the collection. This was in, and know if I'm buying these shoes, buy these jeans where they're a bit like a sauce as seen on screen.
Joseph: [00:36:45] And it developments along those way.
We'd love to have you back and just hear how things changed. You don't give us expenses.
Nick Trueman: [00:36:50] Quit all of that. Just focusing on the stuff that's working now. Maybe, maybe in my next life, my next business life on some aspect, but yeah, quite happy here at the moment.
Joseph: [00:36:59] Yeah. I, I believe that beautiful artwork, uh, and a nice smile on your face.
Get you get to have your office, you know, um, one of the things that I was expecting going into this, because, you know, you talk about like those, like the rise of Shopify. So I'm thinking that you can give us some, some keen insights into how Shopify evolves up to the point that it is now. So, um, I still got you for about like, Okay.
How, how specific do I need my math to be now? So I got to be like 13, 13, 14 months or minutes. So this is something that I, that I think our listeners can get a lot of insight as to how the format of Shopify changed. Yeah. So I'll spice this up just a little bit, just to give you an understanding of like how I view format change.
So one example would be something like Facebook, where initially I signed on to Facebook and it was like a living yearbook where photos are updated. People are posting stuff, but it's not like town square. It's just this, this ongoing way to memorialize things. Now it's town square and it's got everything.
So in that sense, the format has changed drastically. So along those lines, I'm curious about the format changes in Shopify.
Nick Trueman: [00:38:00] Yeah, definitely. So I mean, Shopify in the early days is when I started my own Shopify business, we were selling them. In fact, I've even got some in here. So they were just sitting on our, on our, uh, on our shelf as a reminder of what not to do or not how not to run a business.
Um, but yeah, we, I went to a meetup about six or seven years ago. And saw three people who own small Shopify businesses making one and a half, 2 million pounds a month of revenue, um, shouting about it saying, look how great this is. So on the train home, I got my credit card out and I was sitting there on the train and my laptop, um, just on the wifi.
And I spent $5,000 with some random company on Alibaba in China and ordered a whole load of sunglasses. Some of which they say, it's still sitting on the shelf here from four years ago. We would have been running that maybe five now, actually. Um, but yeah, so I went to this meet up and I was like, wow, I fight.
It's really nice and easy. Um, Shopify was, it was built to be a, you can't change too much, so you don't need technical development backgrounds to manage things. And if, when you look at Shopify as competitors, they've absolutely smashed it. Essentially. I describe it as the WordPress of the e-commerce world, but you can't log into you.
Can't go into the server. You can only log in to the front end. There's no, the code bit is just there and it works in the same way with the same templates, et cetera. Then, uh, this big scaling and growing company came along called Jim shark and they were building their nice big Magento one store. So Magento two is out now, but years ago, it didn't say one store.
And there's a great video on YouTube to highly recommend anybody listening right now to understand where shuffle came from. Um, there's a, quite a few videos where Shopify themselves have interviewed Ben who's the founder. I forget his surname, but Ben from gym shark. Um, but check them out, CEO, founder, something like that. Ben gym shark the story. And he talks in this video, um, which I saw a Shopify meetup a couple of years back, um, where he talks about they were building this Magento one website and they turned it on and it broke on launch day. Their business was growing too quickly. So by the time they got this big clunky Magento store live, um, the store already was too small.
The servers couldn't keep up. They need to be expanded. The code fell apart. It got hacked. This is in the first day of turning it on. So they wrote back to like, press the shop or something random or Drupal Joomla or something. One of the old platforms they were using. So they rolled back to that just to keep trading, even though it looks awful with a big banner saying, sorry, we launched our new site and it failed really sorry, but same great service is still here.
We're still working on our new website. One of them, one of those that Shopify got in touch and basically said, move it to Shopify. And I forget the timeframe, but it was like a month or two. And they launched a whole new store. They'd spent a year or something building this Magento one site and it cost them like hundreds of thousands of pounds.
And didn't work like just did not work. It did not function as it should. They throw that money in the bin and for an e-commerce business scaling that is not the kind of money you can throw away. So they, they put them on Shopify and instantly Shopify wasn't good enough, but it held up, it worked, it looked better.
It worked, it was a step forward. They still had some problems of when it's customized it a bit more, it's making so much money, but then the con transaction fees, the Shopify are ridiculous like millions every month. And so Shopify then said, all right, we're going to build a custom platform for you guys and working on it for awhile, something to rival Magento.
And then when Magento two was coming along, Shopify plus, and plus is the premium enterprise side of things. Um, for reference, we've launched two plus stores so far this year, and it's only 15th of March when we've hit the record button on this. So, um, yeah, so we've already, we've already launched two plus stores this year and plus was built for gym shark to make it work. Is the enterprise level of, of gym shark. Now where Shopify has come from using your analogy of town square. I think it's great. Shopify Shopify is like, if I, if I can plug one episode of the podcast, the LA it's called winning with Shopify. So go and check out our podcasts. It's on Spotify, iTunes that are winning with Shopify.
And there's an episode we did the last one of the, I think, I think it was the last one last year. And we had Tim Sumner from Shopify. Themselves on there. Check that out. Cause Tim, what he talks about Shopify being the platform that arms, the local businesses and the small online businesses to batter, um, to better Amazon round their heads.
And then we did another podcast, which is another great analogy from Fairfax and favor who had quite a big plus store in the UK. Um, if was only a few weeks ago and they were talking about, um, they said it's a bit like Shopify is a bit like the rebel Alliance on star Wars against the dark side. So Amazon being the dark side and it allows everyone to have a really good looking store.
It functions well, you don't need to play with any code. Now, given that there's you mentioned a lot of Shopify agencies and e-commerce agencies tuning into this. What I will say is a few of our agency partners who offer web and design websites and work closely with us. And we love them all to bits. A lot of them are finding it difficult to get recurring work.
Once they've launched the Shopify store because it doesn't need server maintenance things don't generally break. So in one sense, it means you've got less revenue. In another sense, it means that the creative directors of the e-commerce agencies are loving it because they can crack on with the CRO the things that make money, average order value increases, et cetera.
So actually the client's money now is not spent on just keeping the lights on and working integrations that keep breaking between eBay, Amazon, and Magento, things like that. And we've got quite a few clients who use Hybris Oracle clouds, um, you know, to name a few and there's such clunky platforms or Hybris.
We just moved some of them Hybris to Shopify plus, and the, we kind of had this war room. Scenario of life all goes wrong. We're all going to gather on the phone at 5:00 AM on launch day and just start fixing stuff. And we didn't have to use that scenario. It's all. In fact, the drops were only about 20 or 30% in SEO and they bounce back really, really quickly.
And we've only been live 3rd of February life. So we've only been live six weeks and we're already working on phase two for SEO. So we're, now we can now click a button and make a new page or click a button and make a new collection or a drag and drop the menu around or add custom content collection pages and product pages.
And it's, I use the phrase a lot that marketing has been lost from digital marketing, and I think Shopify really are flying the flag for putting marketing back in. So we're not trying to fix technical problems and it's those random golden goose e-commerce companies that have made it by just having the right product that makes enough profit and people just kind of find it and buy it.
And they've got a bit of a monopoly and it's a little bit of an accident. What Shopify is doing now is Shopify is, um, yeah, Shopify is now allowing, um, small businesses to make very, very quick decisions and make things look good. So actually, as I say, the investment in web now, um, it means you've got a bigger margins play with between costs out and costs in the only downside is that also then does mean that things like Google shopping and Facebook advertising stuff are getting absolutely more and more expensive.
So I think it's, um, yeah, it's something to be aware of that it's getting more competitive cause people have bigger margins to play with, and you've got to think if you want to target, you know, black men's t-shirts, um, as in black t-shirts for men sort of thing and not the other way around. Um, yeah, so black t-shirts for men or orange t-shirts for men, et cetera.
Um, you are against a sauce and Amazon and eBay and all the big players. So you're gonna have to pay the same click cost as them. So don't try and compete with them. Just come up with your own set of USP's, you know, super fast at every buy one, get one free. Um, you know, what happens if you join our loyalty program, stuff like that, you know, and have a real think about sweat business modeling comes in, you know, how much should we charge for our products and how should we position delivery?
Should we increase our product costs by two pounds and make delivery free? Even eight delivery costs five because most people buy three or three or more products. So if they buy four or more products, we are quids in on delivery, but it now looks free, which increases our conversion rate. And none of that's new.
And it's easier to do that on something like Shopify.
Joseph: [00:45:39] So I think there's a great analogy there. Just about how Shopify is really arming the small businesses to take on the dark side and not being the star Wars or that I am, I have to point out. I mean, the empire is influenced by the dark side, but, uh, Amazon empire.
Yeah. That, that, that definitely checks out.
Nick Trueman: [00:45:57] Amazon is also just their marketplace for small businesses. It's actually, most of what is sold on Amazon is from small businesses as well. So you've got to remember that. It's not, it's not just, it's not actually Amazon, there's a few Amazon products, but it's what they know what point.
No, no, no, no, no, no. 1% of all products on Amazon are made by Amazon. So anybody like the Kindles and echoes and stuff for that, and they do push them, but fair enough, it's their platform. But yeah, most, most things are sold by like, you know, UK books limited or something. There's a small bookshop in the UK is selling thousands of books on Amazon, like, and it is, and that for me is that's great.
You know, they they're making money and Amazon might take 30 or 40% cut when you factor in all the delivery cost and everything. So obviously the website would be a lot less than that, but you still gotta pay it. You gotta pay Google for the traffic.
Joseph: [00:46:38] So it really is more about, um, comparing to, uh, other large companies too.
I think that the trouble is the more I try to hone in on this analogy, the more I'm going to have to be like, well, someone's got to be the villain here. And like, you know, there are large systems and smaller systems. And with the point that I wanted to make is that the, the methodology of marketing is also about small scale and we use that to our advantage because people typically want to root for them.
The rebels typically want to root for the perceived good guys. They want to root for the underdogs. They want to see somebody triumph. Um, I think an analogy would be something like a Floyd Mayweather. You know, he's a very defensive play style. Great for winning tournaments. Nuts. Yeah, not so great for selling tickets.
The tickets are sold because people want to see them go down and that's where a lot of the support comes from. So in marketing, what we learned is sometimes we just really gotta rely on grassroots and I almost hesitate to say, gorilla marketing tactics, you go onto Instagram and you start interacting with other people of a similar scale and you start to build a community that way.
And then you build an audience. I'll almost throw the old school. Organic means because as you say, Facebook advertising is getting more expensive as time goes on. And we're, we're learning that the hard way it being some of the frontliners.
Nick Trueman: [00:47:49] I think with Facebook as well. I mean, we, I mean, in our defense that the agency is going to say that the best solution, of course, but in our defense as a consultancy, we always say that Google is our focus because people are looking for stuff.
Yeah, I'm looking for a new boss drill and it's like, Oh, we sell drills. My boss here they are. You know, just kind of, they know I'm already buy ready when I'm searching that keyword. Whereas on Facebook, you don't, but then equally Facebook has less competitors in terms of, you're not against 50 other companies selling that same product or similar products, which you will be on Google, Facebook, you might have against one or two, but you're not fighting for the space of somebody looking you're fighting for it.
The space in somebody's feed, which is very different.
Joseph: [00:48:27] Right. Yeah. Yeah. You're fighting for the discovery. Cause uh, there, they have no intention to find any of this. They just want to, uh, go on the, uh, the, the dope commune journey. And I say they, but I include myself in that too. So I only got you for another five minutes.
So, um, one mindset probably stretch to 15 if we need to, if there's a, yeah. If you need me a bit longer, I I'm happy to have you. As long as I can have me for eviction.
Nick Trueman: [00:48:49] Let's go to 15. Then we'll do 15.
Joseph: [00:48:56] This is one that I wanted to get to. Uh, this is in regards to Parker, but there was a connection that I made that I guess I want to tell you about, cause I noticed earlier on, and not that I had to notice, you just told me straight up. So it's the. A challenge of trying to connect a Parker with spec, as you're describing Shopify, to me, I noticed the same theme there of almost trying to connect to Shopify, regular to Shopify plus.
And that, again, there's like an onboarding process where somebody within the scale of Shopify, which quite substantial, so, uh, and observing, and even, um, implementing ways to connect at Parker respect, have you also had an opportunity to connect, say like you see for people on the one end of Shopify into Shopify plus?
Nick Trueman: [00:49:41] I'll be honest. We've never, we've not actually managed to get a client to click the buttons, go from Shopify Shopify plus. I think a lot of organizations, I mean, we wouldn't, we don't do dev work and we don't design. So we just do the customer acquisition with google. Well, that sound bit.
Parker sides. We do a bit of everything, so we're a much wider team there, but again, it's like a whole, it's like a whole marketing and digital agency and team and web agency all under one roof.
You've got to just kick stuff and order stuff. But I think the. We've not had a client scenario yet being completely honest, where we've gone from Shopify plus. A lot of our clients know they need to be on plus pretty quick that said there's three or four clients of ours at the moment where we're, you know, we're hitting sort of, you know, 750,000 pounds or dollars of revenue a month.
And it's getting to a point where it's like actually, you know, to put two and a half thousand or whatever the license fee is into plus now kind of makes sense. And to do it, you just make a phone call and pay a bit more per month. It's that quick and simple. It's um, yeah, if you look at sort of, you know, Magento one's Magento two.
Every Magento, one customer, we serve a couple still on Magento one, which is a headache given that it's it's nine months since it was discontinued, um, were unsupported. So it's still secure, but they're having to do their own support now as opposed to Magento releasing updates. Um, but yeah, everyone had to completely rebuild their sites.
You don't have to do that in Shopify. Um, but yeah, so I think crossing the chasm is a difficult one. Um, I quite arrogantly started offering training courses. And again, I feel like I've not learned everything yet by any means. The more, you know, the more, you know, you don't know is a, is my phrase. Um, but it was a motto I live by.
Um, but I started off in training courses to service the little companies, what I went and focused on the big stuff. And actually then realized that one of our best clients right now, They were tiny little construction firm near us. And all they do is sound proofing. They just soundproof people's bedrooms and they there's, some there's some houses.
They would just do the exterior, walks a big highway outside a big motorway, then learning loads of American English, by the way, during the podcast, there's a nice highway outside and they just want to have the, they don't do the window itself. And they, you know, the customer's going to get a new window fitted.
It's triple glazed instead of double. And then they just want a bit of soundproof. It's going to be the wall slightly thicker. But so those guys though, they've gone from paying me one Christmas when I was freelancing between jobs six years ago, like a thousand pounds, just to build them a quickly on Shopify store, sorry, equipment on WordPress website, because their website is rubbish.
Now they're spending about 5,000 pounds a month and we're getting them a new lead for every 20 or 30 pounds that we spend. Half of those leads are becoming jobs and each jobs were five or 6,000 pounds each. Um, you know, and they're a family run business. They just kind of crack on with it. They work long hours and they, you know, take really nice holidays every year.
So again, tiny little client, and I think there's always this thing in businesses of like, You need to work out. I certainly think definitely as an e-commerce or digital agency, you need to work out what the difference between small and big is and what factors that defines. And you need to work that out before you start charging a fee because the small ones are not always going to be the ones that pay the smaller fee.
So one thing we've certainly not nailed given that it's only been nine months since Parker and spec or under my remit. Um, but we we're, we're in the process of trying to highlight when we get a lead into one of them, when should it be with the other? The problem we've had is every time you mentioned Parker to a spec client, they go, Oh, all these great services that a smaller costs.
And then sometimes we do have to have that conversation a couple of months later saying, this is why you're unhappy with Parker as you probably should be respect. They do these tasks with Parker, I'll get expecting to deploy them. Anyway, once you credits the use that then actually come with spec, we'll charge you a minimum fee per months.
Thoughts about sort of 500 pounds a month for PPC advertising, give us that. And then we've got three months to make it profitable. Excluding our fee. Once it's profitable, you can grow the re the media, spend enough to all feed them, becomes nothing compared to what, what charged, what we're making you as revenue sort of thing.
So we've had to have those conversations, but we don't always get it right. But yeah, we've got to be careful because if you suddenly stick both on the table, it makes speck not look lucrative enough. But then when you get three to six months down the line, you look back since you spec was the obvious option and Parker hasn't really worked because their requirement has been too high.
And they're not just trying to get a few bits and pieces done. They're actually trying to scale too quickly. And that's what spec that was not theparker does what you ask it to, spec tells you what needs to be done. Um, so I think it has been a real challenge that said three or four spec clients right now came purely from Parker.
And they're more than big enough. One of them's growing nicely. They, one of our biggest spec clients came from Parker. So actually it's, it's not the worst thing ever, but I think, um, vice versa, we've had quite a few spec clients that, you know, come to us and said, right, we need something. We've tried to qualify them and thought they're not, they can't afford us.
And it's not just about money. They can't afford us. They don't need us and then sort of pass them on to Parker. And they've had a great time, you know, three months later they sorted all their social media, our websites looking great SEO to go up. And actually now they are ready to come back to come back to spec at that point.
So yeah, so only good opportunities, but I think it's, it's not, it's certainly not being clear. Cut. We never thought it was going to be, there's not been a clearcut. Which one are you? And there's certainly not a conveyor belt of just everyone from park is heading to spec. It might be the case, but we're only nine months in.
And actually when we first got involved in June, um, Caroline, hadn't taken a new clients on, in quite awhile. So actually the business was pretty stationary at the time. Now it's flying like mad. Like we're, we've been well into profit, even hiring a few staff, um, you know, and it's going really, really well.
And we certainly had our challenges over that time. And we've just taken the approach of if anybody's unhappy, we'll just go totally over and above to sorts out, or basically bring in spec to sort things out if Parker failed somebody and then do an investigation and fix Parker's result. But I think again, to anybody listening from an agency, you know, agencies around that, it really is a challenge.
I thought this might come up earlier, but I think it's a really good time to mention this. I have a secret weapon at spec, a really, really big secret weapon. And he is a, he is a, he's basically my advisor. So he's kind of like a mentor advisor. Um, he's semiretired. He, he basically used to run lots and lots of other agencies.
His most recent agency exited. Um, before I, when I, when I say I got caught for them quite a lot in up in town, or he lives quite local to me, we'd go out for beer every now and then. And when he told me the way I've just exited my business, I was like, Oh my gosh, how much do I need to pay you now to have you as an official advisor?
And he said, I need to wait six months, but I'm happy to answer any questions over a beer for free. Now, anyway, two years nearly now we've had him on our books, paying him. I have him two hours a week and I just asked him anything. He's helped me hire the right staff. It was his, his advice to buy an office recently to get involved in Parker, how we bring the two together and having that voice of reason.
I'll be honest. I've been really arrogant over the years. You probably tell now that I'm on a massive U-turn of, I really don't know anywhere near as much as I think I know I need to be a bit humble, under promise over deliver, go back to the basics, some things, and that's working really well for us in terms of results.
We're acquiring clients, you know, massively massive speed. Um, we're also acquiring great staff. I've got phenomenal. I could not ask for a better team, but I think over the years I've always, whenever someone said like, Oh, you should get a mentor or have a coach, or I'm like, what are you talking about? Like, I don't want someone telling me what to do and whenever I've tried it, I've had to spend more time explaining to them the problem.
Then they've gone. Oh, whatever you know about that. And it's like, what is it? What's the point of view. Whereas Sean. He's my advisor. I didn't go through some coaching program. I'm not a fan of the startup world. I don't like accelerator programs and not interested in investors. I just want someone I can sit down with and have a conversation to give me a bit of head space to go learn.
I think we've got a bit of a problem with this person here or you know, this contract's going South at the moment. I need to turn this around or if we lose it fine, it doesn't change anything for the business. Doesn't cause any problems, but I'd rather not lose it. And he'll say, right, here's what's going on here now we've got this scenario.
This has happened. This person's let them down. This is what's going on here. Appreciate your busy, but this is what you need to do to turn this around. And on the next conversation with the client, I'll just be really open and say, XYZ Z and get this thing cleared up and get everybody back on a level per level fitting.
And that honestly is kept probably about 10, 20% of our client base now. And when you look at the average agency is making 50% profit, 10 or 20% is almost half of your profits. So we owe him a lot. You know, he's not the cheapest, but he's brilliant. And it was through personal connection. And the kind of, I know you can I just try this out for a few months and then he asks me, how's it going?
I'm like, you're not going anywhere. I need your help now. And I, I believe if I sell the business, so we've continued to buy other companies and merged them in which you've done a bit of recently, I continue to believe that he'll, he will continue to be a big part of that. And I think that's really, really important.
So going back to your initial question, which I've got on a massive tangent of how do we get people from Parker to spec or actually, do we want them to go the other way? It definitely is part of its spec as the businesses grow. But I think having a mentor as a secret weapon and just constantly trying different things and the other thing as well, which we talk about on the podcast a lot from the e-commerce companies perspective, talking to their own customers.
But I think it's important as an agency to talk to your clients, you know, take them out for a drink, take them out for lunch. How are you finding stuff at the moment? If I could change one thing about our service, what would it be? And a guarantee every time it'd be something that's top of their head that instantly say to you.
Um, do you know what, when we catch up, I sometimes feel like the first 15, 20 minutes a bit loosey goosey. Yeah. I think it was there by that. And then I can easily respond to that. Well, we'll just set an agenda. Absolutely fine. And they'd be like, yeah, let's try that. And then three months later, in terms of keeping the client longer, keeping the relationship strong for him and say, John, I just want to check.
We've been sat agendas for all of our calls. How's that working for you? You know, I sent one today. We changed a few people around in the team here. How does that work? If you don't? She goes, it's been fantastic. It's a headache out of my hair. Um, I've been, I've basically not been involved in what you're doing anymore because I'm the marketing director and I shouldn't be on the ground too often.
And what you guys are doing is absolutely great. And that's why you've not heard from me. No news is good news. I'm really, really happy. And I'm introducing you to a couple of my friends as well, which is probably a prompt of me asking the question of how's it going? So I think, yeah, I think in terms of, yeah, in terms of understanding the customer, talk to them and don't take what they say is the answer, take it in, digest it, try to think where's the question come from.
What's caused them to ask that question. Where are we sitting right now? You know, should we ditch this client? Should we start looking for another one to replace them? Go through that process. Don't just, if they say, Oh, you guys should do this thing, just do it, you know, process it and think about what has been said and therefore, what should we do as well. I think is important.
Joseph: [00:59:49] I think one element of that that can pose challenging is because it is a human being on the other side is how much of their decision-making is even informed strictly by the business or if their decision making, they come in that day and something went wrong at home. Uh, you know, the dog made a mess in the carpet and then all of a sudden they're like, can we speed up our phone calls?
You never know. There's always little things that get into our subconscious. Yeah.
Nick Trueman: [01:00:09] So that particular client, yeah. They told me a while ago, they said they got a week off and they went to Cypress last summer. Cause that was one of the places on the UK safe list last summer. And when they came back, you know, I said, Oh, how was it?
And they said to me, do you know, it was the first week I've had where I haven't looked at my emails at all. Since I started working for this company a year ago, it's been like 10:00 PM every night. Instead of my laptop, I get up at seven. It's just, there's literally been nothing. I've barely spending time with my kids bearing in mind, we're in lockdown and we're homeschooling and I barely spending time with my kids.
And so. I then always taken the approach of asking that person, how can we support you more in there? So we've taken up too much of your time. Do you want, do you want to miss these calls from now on? And I'll send you a summary quickly. Oh, Nick, that'd be great. Yeah, please. And it's like, well that, there we go.
That's a client for five years and it's, none of it was complicated. I think you just need to gain a bit of experience to know how to deal with those things. And that's something I've learned in the last two years really. It's a really get under the skin and I'm probably still nowhere on that journey, but yeah, I think it is important.
Joseph: [01:01:06] So, uh, one analogy that, uh, came to my mind, I don't know how a phone services are in the UK. I don't even know how it really goes into States, but here in Canada we have two major phone companies. We got bell and we got Rogers and I personally, I could afford Rogers. I just choose not to because I just don't, it's just not a good value proposition for me, but these companies have several brands underneath them because they realize I will, you know, if bell just offers a different service, then I can lose app.
So they might as well just. We might as well just offer like lower cost brands so that we can acquire those customers. And so positioning it in a way that it's profitable. And I think that was what came to mind, because I'm thinking that you have Parker, you have spec and you never know, like a third pillar might emerge at some point that might, then it can be, Oh, okay.
We'll see what the market dictates. Right. There might be a different pillar that needs to be serviced in a particular way. That's profitable to you because I really appreciate that analogy or that example about the, uh, the soundproofing, because the soundproofing, you can kind of scale it depending on how far you can travel.
Right. But other than that, like it's, but scale is both, uh, it's, it's vertical, but it is also a lateral. And what I mean by that is you scale based off how expensive your client is and how much time, uh, how valuable their time is and how much money they make, how much it might, if they're willing to pay.
So in that sense, the, the, this. The scale increases because you're having more of an impact you impact. If you sound for somebody who is working 10 hours a day and is constantly utilizing getting value out of that soundproof, well, then they're having more of an influence in the world. So that's one way to, I was into quantify impact, even it was not as tangible or is it noticeable as like, Oh, I sold a hundred last week.
Now this week I'm selling a thousand, something like that.
Nick Trueman: [01:02:54] I think it's right. And I think just, yeah, just to clarify that point is it's been a real brainwave for us, but in terms of just understanding what is a good client, another exercise I'd recommend everybody does every three months. And I used to just go and sit on a train and just do like a little lap of the UK.
As far as I get in a day, just sit on a, train, my laptop, doing some thinking, looking out the window, getting some nice lunch somewhere far away. And what I would do in that day is I would go through our client list. Any anybody we've worked for in the last three months and just list down on a spreadsheet name of client, how do we find them?
And I guarantee you'll be shocked by what you write down. Like it's the amount of times I've looked at that and gone, hang on a minute. This one person's introduced us to so many people. Um, yeah, it's actually brainwave and it then informs you as the business owner or a new business person or account managers, directors informs you where you need to be spending your time.
So if you know that all your clients come through the same, you know, Dave Jones over here, we'll spend more time with Dave, give Dave some cash every time Dave introduces you to somebody like, and that sounds really simple. And it's where the data, the right data makes the decision for you, I believe. And I think, yeah, it's a little exercise.
I do quite a lot. And that then helps us define like, Oh actually, do you know what 10% of my clients are, come from Parker recently aspect. That's interesting. And the same with Parker, you know, if they come through our Shopify badge or a podcast, they just land on the website when they do, we think it was a referral from somewhere else from one of our partnerships.
Should we do more partnerships again? We don't want to have 50 partnerships. Start up to give it a real good to go. If it's going to fail if we can answer that question before we start.
Joseph: [01:04:23] I have one more question for you. Um, this is like a mindset one that I would like our audience to take away from, um, listening to your podcast.
One of the things that you say is the idea of like a quick win, where it's a very, very small, but tangible positive outcome. And I think this is a good way to help build momentum and people's minds. So this would be the last thing I want to ask about, and then I'll let you go. So you can just let people know how to.
I find you, and if you have any other like last bits of wisdom, be free to do that. But just like, I just wanna hear about the methodology of like a quick win and how to, how do we quantify that and how we can start like, finding ways to win quickly, even right here, right now?
Nick Trueman: [01:04:56] Specifically for agencies or just fed businesses.
Joseph: [01:04:59] Well, you know what, let's, uh, let's go with agencies and I'll challenge our listeners to then apply that to their own. Uh, cause I think across the board, like I I'm, I'm just watching the clock here. I don't want to make it do that.
Nick Trueman: [01:05:10] I think, yeah. I think the main, the main thing to look at, as I say is where your clients come from and be brutal with it.
Then, you know, I think one of the hardest things I've had as a business owner is just removing emotion from the decision-making process. One way that I, this is what my last word of wisdom, probably the way I do that is every morning when I come in the office, I drive in, takes me 15 minutes, about seven miles to drive into the office, but nine kilometers for any of our European listeners.
Um, and I. Yeah, I drive in and I tell myself it's not it's my business, but I don't work for me. I work for the business and certainly the UK that's the law. The business is its own entity. It has its same bank accounts and passports. It pays people. It has income outcome, the same as a human word. And I think that's really, really important to quick wins.
I would look for one is, and I hate doing this from honest. I've only done it once and it was a really fruitful exercise, but I don't wanna do it again. Um, is go through your client list and get rid of all the dead words. Um, I hate the idea cause I'm very much of the opinion of if they're, they're just paying us a bit of money and not causing any harm.
Just leave them. Another thing, that's the problem with that. But I think my advisor, Sean's always telling me to get rid of the dead words. That's a quick win, um, with your lead gen, that's always, the thing agencies are struggling with is new business. When it's, when you've got loads of leads in that's when you need to do the most new business.
So you, again, Sean's advice, you turn it into this ongoing new business thing. So right now we've got loads of good opportunities on the horizon, which is now we need to start getting the next wave in because then it's not wave after wave. It's just a continual current, like a river of new business coming in.
And so that's a quick win. So as soon as if you're not busy, you're probably forensically scrambling around, then you will probably you'll probably get through, which is good. If you can apply that approach when you're not desperate, And still act Tony Robbins that, um, you know, the crazy therapist chap, he talks a lot about how to make your mindset desperate, even when you're not.
And that's a good mindset. So giving you a little bit too much information here when I need to go to the loo is when I'm most productive, because I'm frantically working away. Like, let's go and I'm going to go a little bit. I'm gonna go in a minute. I'm gonna, I know, I know that now. So I try and squeeze in an extra five or seven minutes before I go.
Cause I'm super productive. Cause my brain's in like fight or flight mode and I'm like, let's go, let's go. Let's go get so much done. It goes to the loo and knows wait until they finish the thing I'm on. And then go. I think quick wins, get rid of any dead words, sign any of those clients you're thinking of signing.
Get a bit more aggressive with it. You with new business, you never have anything to lose. I am I'm politely aggressive is how I would put it. So I'm on a, I email people regularly. I at about five companies this morning, potential clients of ours. It's back saying, Hey guys, hate you. Well, should we see what the latest is on there?
So, you know, we're really keen to work with you. Haven't heard from you, you know, didn't hear from you guys last week. Um, and always with a little, let me know if you need any help with the decision making process. Let me know if you need any insights that might inform your decision. And if we don't, you know, if we're not going to win, could you let me know?
Cause I'm quite happy to change our approach accordingly so that it works for you or push back on what I think might be the wrong approach. Guess what box I've just ticked consultant and that's our USP is why people go with us. So I would say, try and shorten the new business cycle as much as you can, then you can do more new business cycles throughout the year.
Get rid of any dead words. Be careful with it though. If you just shut those, the clients out the door, you've lost revenues, you need to be a bit careful about that. Um, really big philosophy for me. And this is a massive, quick win, 80% of your growth. And this applies to any business, even an e-commerce business, let alone the agency's 80% of your growth is currently locked in your existing clients.
So go through them and go, what services could we add? Some of our SEO clients, you know, where someone's charged like a thousand pounds a month and then realize we've over the last year, they're now making 150,000 pounds a month more than when we started what our fee doesn't really make sense anymore.
Does it? Why are we only getting. You know, under 1% of that growth bearing in mind, they've got that money every single month now. And we're adding more and more and more on top. Send me say, it's clients lit things have grown massively. Here's how much input we've had. Um, you know, we're keen to up our fee.
Now it's 2000 because we're not really being rewarded for what we do, but we want to stay motivated and we want to share in that success. Um, it's always scary asking, but our clients often have turned around and said, yeah, you're fine. We, you know, we didn't want to bring it up. Of course you don't want to pay out more than we need.
See, but we also don't want to lose you as an agency because you're really good. So actually, yeah, or even with Sean's advising me to an easier on PPC because budget goes up fee goes up and they only increased the budget if we tell them to. And where are you gonna tell them, see if it's working, because otherwise we're going to scale.
Something's not working. We have loads more revenue from it. We get reliant on it. They leave when they really angry, we get no case study notes, testimonial causes of the problem. And so I think, yeah, to reiterate, I think get rid of any dead words. But do it bit by bit, be careful, get rid of the worst ones.
First. If the client's taken up too much time, they probably are taken up too much time. So get some way of documenting that and get rid of them as well, or, or try and pin them down to make it work better and grow your existing clients is always the best way to grow the business. Keep new business happening all the time.
Um, just get a spreadsheet, 12 columns, Jan, feb, March, April every month, do something new and got to think really logically and really objectively. How am I going to get that thing in front of a client? So I've seen lots of businesses write loads of white papers that nobody's yeah. Complete waste of time.
So we write one or two white papers a year, have audiences to email them to, or we put some money behind it on LinkedIn. Or we send that out as a bit of a pre-call to a webinar that we run and we're inviting hundreds of people and we get hundreds of people, webinars. We run them, we might do an e-commerce one, a property businesses, one construction company, one a, uh, just general B2B lead gen one, and bring those audience in.
Talk about those topics. Give them a lot of free stuff. With enough gaps that it's like, okay, I love that. Talk from spec loads of quick wins. I can do this, this and this to my website today, but actually I need to change stuff, but that's what I would do. And don't get me wrong for anyone listening, who runs an agency.
It is, it is hard. Graft is probably the, one of the hardest types of businesses to run. I regularly think about quitting. I regularly hit my head against the wall and I don't take enough breaks and COVID has hit me like a freight train in a sense that I haven't taken enough time off because there's nowhere to go when I've been off at home or for a few days, I've been on my emails the whole time anyway, so I'm not really off.
Um, but I think you've got to, you've got to play hard, work hard kind of thing. And in that order, if you don't take time out. Especially if you're a UK based, you'll know what's happening about tax rates at the moment, there are no tax benefits of running a business, actually the opposite. Now there's no financial reason to run a business from a tax perspective, you need to take time off.
You need to build an asset. So think about all your decisions. You know, when we bought, we were in the process of buying an office at the moment to boost up our value as a company. And instead of paying rent, we pay a loan back for the buildings sort of thing. So that makes more sense. Then we've got our own space and we've got a few spare desks we can rent out to generate.
So instead of paying money to a landlord, we're now generating revenue from the same thing, four walls around us. We can paint it and make it a fun environment, which means more people want to work for us. It means our employees take ownership of it and stuff. I think we're always talking financially about these things.
Quick wins, get rid of dead words, signs, and new clients as quickly as you can have a new business plan. If you don't have one, find somebody that knows how to come up with one and get your whole company involved in new business, getting them, writing white papers, running webinars, inviting people in, and if it helps as well.
I highly recommend going on Fiverr or Upwork or something and getting a VA just every time you get one of those business owners, when you get those tasks, it's like, I've got 400 rows of a spreadsheet now, and there's no formula that could always make this, just these go through manually, get a VA and get them on the phone and go, right.
I'm going to do the first three then, you know, you screen-share and do the next three, right. Crack on till it's done. And they might cost you five or $10 an hour. Get a VA is absent or get a junior person in the company. And often when we hire a new junior, they're my personal assistant for the first two or three months, I can see how the business functions.
And then as I get a bit of a feel for kind of where their strengths are, then I buddy them up in a mentorship program with somebody else and they kind of go from there. So I think, yeah, lots of quick.
Joseph: [01:12:54] That's fantastic. That's, that's huge. And, and I, and I made sure to ask, uh, what we can do to win today. And most of us will have to go to the bathroom today. So I think that's yeah, absolutely stressed out. You want to rant for an hour? You got up there.
Nick Trueman: [01:13:15] That's what my wife is for. So he's ranked a wife to be, I should say we're getting married in the summer, but yeah, I think if anyone's getting contact, justaskparker.com or spec.digital. There's no.com or you can just .digital spec, SPEC digital is where it's catch us.
Um, you find me Nick Trueman, Trueman with the E so not the American spelling, but T R U E M A N. Nick Trueman on Instagram, no Instagram. They find me on Instagram. I've hidden all my public profiles because I used to run a YouTube channel and they find me on LinkedIn and the Nick Trueman. And if you want to check out my podcast as well, um, it's purely Shopify focused. It's called winning with Shopify and you'll hear my classic, very British, sorry, posh accents on the, uh, on the podcast. So you'll know it's me, but, um, no, it's been great to be a really appreciate the invite. And, um, yeah, I hope everybody's found something useful from a.
Joseph: [01:14:03] I certainly have, and I rant or no rant, even if it just got a loads of development stuff that you want to let us know about whatever the case is, we would love to have you back.
Nick Trueman: [01:14:11] I'll drop you an email.
Joseph: [01:14:12] Okay. Sounds good. All right, listeners, if you're like me, you have so much to process and so much to do. So get started, take care and which I consume.
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