Rethinking the Fashion Ecommerce Industry with Brass Clothing co-founders Jay Adams & Katie Doyle

Rethinking the Fashion Ecommerce Industry with Brass Clothing co-founders Jay Adams & Katie Doyle

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How emotional intelligence was more important than data intelligence to the cofounders of ecommerce site Brass Clothing.
  • Why product is secondary to connection with your customer.
  • How the value you provide consistently for the customer isn’t just about the product.

The friendship between Jay Adams and Katie Doyle, cofounders of Brass Clothing, began when they were freshmen in high school. They never imagined they would create an ecommerce fashion line together to satisfy not only their own needs, but the fashion needs of a community of passionate women.

Fast forward from freshmen year to when they were both budding professionals—Jay worked with apparel manufacturers and Katie with online fashion retailers—and shared a mutual frustration with the lack of quality and integrity in the fashion world as well as the toll fast fashion was having on the environment and people’s lives. They launched Brass Clothing in September 2014 with a line of five dress styles to solve the problems they had in their own wardrobes and to take advantage of the opportunity to provide something better to like-minded women.

In this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. episode we learn about their unique product development and marketing approach that has fueled the growth of their business.

Unique Approach to Taking The Product To Market

We really were trying to take sort of a minimum viable product approach. Not very typical in consumer products, but for us it was really important for us to test our concept and see if there were other people interested in what we were doing.

– Jay Adams

Taking a minimum viable product approach wasn’t the only way Jay and Katie diverged from other ecommerce sites and consumer product businesses. In the spring of 2015, they were ready to attract more customers with their spring/summer product, but they wanted to do it in a financially feasible way so they used a Kickstarter campaign.

When it came to marketing their business, Jay and Katie continued to buck the trends of ecommerce and focused on connecting with their community rather than rely solely on what the data would tell them to do.

Tap Into People’s Emotions And Their Whys

When Jay and I started Brass, we knew we wanted to make products that women loved. Not only just great clothing, but we also wanted to create a brand that people loved. And really build a community around our brand with like-minded women.

– Katie Doyle

Typically, marketing for ecommerce sites is very data driven. Just lean on Google Analytics to tell you what people want. Jay and Katie wanted to focus on the emotional side. They really wanted to build a community. Connect with their customers. Develop relationships. As a result, emotional intelligence was more important to them than the data intelligence.

Listen. Learn. Adapt.

We’re not about cool-girl fashion, we’re about relatable fashion. We’re about connecting with our customers. We’re about helping her. Providing value all along the entire customer experience. Product, emails to the follow-up.

– Jay Adams

Listening to their consumer base continues to be a priority for Jay and Katie to help improve the product and the Brass Clothing experience. Their best-selling items have nearly 200 reviews, and Jay and Katie assess the feedback they receive from their customers to determine how they can improve. In the podcast they share several ways their products and experience have evolved based upon customer feedback including using models in all shapes and sizes to market their products.

One of the most valuable and special parts about ecommerce and direct to consumer brands is you get to own that relationship and communication with the customer.

– Jay Adams

There’s much more in the full podcast including how content marketing was crucial in the launch of Brass Clothing when Jay’s article, The Myth of the “Maxxinista” went viral, how Jay and Katie enhanced their products by embedding services (see the book by Dave Gray, The Connected Company for more on the concept), and how continuous improvement, even on tried-and-true products, is the key to success.

We look forward to sharing next week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast with you. Subscribe on iTunes and tune in weekly to learn directly from today’s most inspiring entrepreneurs.

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Setting Business & Personal Financial Goals with Worth It Author Amanda Steinberg

Setting Business & Personal Financial Goals with Worth It Author Amanda Steinberg

The Nitty Gritty:

    • How the founder of DailyWorth and author of Worth It uses a two-prong approach to set financial goals that are ambitious.
    • Why failure is an opportunity for learning and growth and you shouldn’t be afraid of it.
    • How you view your identity and feelings of self-worth impact your ability to create financial goals that get you to the life you desire.
    • How having a little “Steve Jobs” in you isn’t a bad thing. Just ask Amanda who established the roots that gave her wings!

It’s easy to assume that Amanda Steinberg, the founder and CEO of DailyWorth, the leading financial media company for women, and author of Worth It, has super powers when it comes to setting business and personal financial goals. But in this week’s Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast she shares with us that while there were times when she appeared to outsiders to have it all together—$200K annual salary, $700K home—she wasn’t experiencing the “exhilaration of affluence.” So, she reset and can now teach you what she learned.

Two Approaches to Setting Financial Goals

It’s not about the speed of our growth, but about the unit economics. That’s what investors want to see. How much do we have to spend to acquire one customer? What is our profit margin on that customer? That’s actually more important for me to master and perfect…

– Amanda Steinberg

Whenever Amanda is setting financial goals there are two strategies she always takes to planning: a top-down and bottom-up approach. In top-down planning you look at your entire market and assume there are no limits on your marketing, capital, and talent resources. Once you have a framework for the possibilities, you bring it back down to earth to assess the possibilities through the realities you have. How many people are on your team. What you know about your sales ability. What capital you have.

You find a number that is both really ambitious and realistic relative to your resources.

– Amanda Steinberg

Battle the Imposter Complex when Setting Financial Goals

Oftentimes entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, struggle with self-worth when setting financial goals. We don’t set an audacious goal, because it feels like it’s bigger than what we can do. We worry about how we will be perceived—too aggressive, “She has a lot of Steve Jobs in her, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing,” (how Amanda was described once), or a failure if we don’t achieve the goal. Amanda learned something as a video-game playing kid that she suggests you employ as an adult when you fail:

“Treat it like a game. Then failure doesn’t feel like a reflection on you it’s just a normal part of the learning process.”

Set goals that feel a bit uncomfortable to you. In her book Worth It, Amanda explores the Good Girl to Lady Boss transition women are in the midst of and explains how to facilitate your own identity transition to create your life and your money on your terms.

Learn more about Amanda’s journey and what you can do to create more financial security in your life by establishing three crucial roots that then give you the wings to live the life you desire.

We’ll be back next week with another inspiring entrepreneur, but in the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to the Profit. Power. Pursuit podcast on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

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How To Use Other People’s Ideas for Fun & Profit (Without Copying)

Joanna Wiebe on marketing her new content marketing and writing app, Airstory

The more you learn about copywriting (or sales and marketing in general) the more you realize that half of your job is using other people’s ideas.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating for copying other people’s work.

Is that clear?

Okay… what I mean is that…

Business is always a process of identifying what works and creating from that knowledge.

Copywriters do this by paying attention to what really grabs their attention, turning that into a formula, and then creating completely original content on top of that formula.

Now, copywriting is a particular passion of mine. I love learning about how it works and I love the way it trains me to think differently.

And when I think copywriting, I think Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hackers.

I had the chance to talk to Joanna about her approach to marketing a brand new project that Copy Hackers has been working on, Airstory.

When I asked her how she was approaching the marketing for Airstory–which Joanna describes as what would happen if Google Docs & Evernote had a baby and let Trello raise it–she said she was really inspired by a marketing campaign that Blue Bottle Coffee had come up with.

They decided they wanted to use the idea too.

Blue Bottle had created a beautiful video “course” on Skillshare that explained the process of brewing exceptional coffee from start to finish. As Joanna told me, the result of watching it was that you couldn’t think about coffee the same way again.

In order for her to use the idea… 

Joanna needed to reverse engineer it.

Her goal is to get people to rethink the way they’ve always done a frequent task: content marketing specifically and writing generally.

After all, that’s what Blue Bottle did. It’s not really about the videos, it’s not really about putting it on Skillshare. The really important part is to understand the mechanism that made that campaign go viral: rethinking the way you do a daily task.

Further, Joanna told me, the real idea is teaching people to be a better consumer of your product so that they’ll only want to choose your product in the future. It’ll be the only one that now meets their standards.

Once she knew that, she could approach marketing Airstory with the “how and what” of the Blue Bottle campaign but with her core goal being to create better writers instead of better coffee brewers.

The videos and distribution channel for the marketing campaign became what I call the “building blocks” of her marketing. But her own product, brand, and customer perspective become what the building blocks are made out of.

You can do the same thing with any successful marketing or sales assets.

What’s more: you should.

I teach our Quiet Power Strategy clients to start looking at every sales page that catches their eye or every email that moves them to click as an opportunity to create a template.

That template is inevitably made up of building blocks that you can use if you only sub in what’s particular to your product, brand, and customer perspective.

Take this blog post, for instance!

  • The first building block (at the beginning) is a shocking or counterintuitive statement that seems to go against cultural norms.
  • The second building block (the bulk of the email) is an explanation of this idea referencing a conversation, in this case, one I had with a successful business owner.
  • The third building block (what you’re reading right now) is a call to action around how to apply this to work for you.
  • The fourth building block (it’s coming, read on!) is a final call to action to check out the whole conversation.

So what are you waiting for?

Listen to Joanna explain this whole process–plus how she interviews prospects to come up with product ideas and how she’s built out two teams to support both the training side of the business and the software side of the business.

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Turning Customer Research Into a New Product with Copyhackers and Airstory co-founder Joanna Wiebe

Turning Customer Research into a New Product with Copy Hackers and Airstory co-founder Joanna Wiebe

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How listening, watching and interviewing customers about the pain points of their process, helped the Copy Hackers team develop the basic idea of a new product.
  • What the jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation is and how it facilitates customer research.
  • How growth, innovation and building new solutions build on the battle scars you learned from other endeavors and creates opportunities and new responsibilities for your team.

Listen. Watch. Interview. And then build.

As Copy Hackers and Airstory co-founder, Joanna Wiebe relates in this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., these steps were foundational building blocks in the creation of the new business endeavor, Airstory, a drag-and-drop document builder. Think: Google docs and Evernote had a baby and let Trello raise it.

The more we listened to more and more people and how they wrote. . .they were all kind of clunkily putting stuff together. So, all of this stuff was happening, and we’re like, OK, well, maybe we can solve this. That’s where the basic idea of Airstory was born.

– Joanna Wiebe

Jobs-to-Be-Done Approach to Innovation

When the Copy Hackers team attended the Business of Software conference 2 ½ years ago, they knew they wanted to build something for the same audience they served with Copy Hackers and to solve some of the problems they kept seeing over and over again. Joanna attended a session at the conference led by Bob Moesta of The Rewired Group where she was introduced to the jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation. The jobs-to-be-done approach essentially tasks the innovator with figuring out what job consumers want to hire a product to do. When consumers buy a product, they “hire” it to get the job done. If a product doesn’t perform, it gets “fired” and there’s opportunity to build something to take its place.

The Copy Hackers team followed the jobs-to-be-done approach and set out to uncover what specific job needed to be done that a software could solve for a content team. Although they started the process by talking to writers, novelists, editors and literary agents, they ultimately determined large content teams with demanding deadlines such as Moz and Hubspot would be the target audience for their new product, in part because they had money to pay for a solution.

“We went through two years of iterating on it to make sure that it had stronger value that it could provide for people. We’re really only now getting to the point where we have a good structure in place, we have a solution here. Do we have something that’s enough to make someone switch?”

– Joanna Wiebe

Joanna describes how they uncovered the “secret sauce” to Airstory when they watched and listened to how these content teams were creating content. Hint: It had nothing to do with their age, gender or socioeconomic status as traditional persona work might make you think.

Effective Customer Interviews

“Interviewing people. Putting something together. Watch beta users. And then get to this place now that we’re onto something; maybe not 100%, but we’re onto something.”

– Joanna Wiebe

Soliciting customer feedback was crucial in the development of Airstory. As Joanna said, it’s essential to get inside the heads of your customers to determine what problem you can solve.

Listen to the full podcast to learn Joanna’s approach to customer interviews, how reverse engineering someone else’s solution to identify building blocks and create something unique is part of innovation, and how to apply lessons you learned on past projects to enhance your current and future work.

To get your weekly Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast fix, where we dig into the nitty-gritty details of marketing, management, business development and more with some of today’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, subscribe on iTunes.

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Don’t Put Off Another Project Because You’re Not In The Right Seat

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Wanna make a bet?

I bet you’ve held off on a project because you didn’t know how to make it happen.

You had a great idea, something that would really make a splash, really get your brand out there.

You could see the finished product (idea, book, offer, etc…) in all its glory.

And then…

You realized you had no idea how to make it happen.

  • How would you shoot the videos?
  • How would you get the new website up?
  • How would you edit the files?
  • How would you market the opportunity?

I’ll admit it: I feel pretty safe making this bet because I’ve been there, done that.

If I look back on the last 8 years, are there probably at least 15 times I could have changed the course of my business if I’d only been willing to step back and let someone else figure out the details.

This week on Profit. Power. Pursuit., I talked to Jenny Dopazo about a project like this, her web series The Fabricant Way.

She actually told me, “The one thing that was certain was that I wasn’t going to put myself in a position where I needed to learn how to do this. Me becoming a film person was not part of the vision.

Learning Is Your Job But It’s Not Your Only Job

As a small business owner, you’re constantly putting yourself in the position of having to learn how to do new things.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing–learning is part of entrepreneurship (and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much!).

But it can become the default setting: new idea equals something new to learn.

And when you’re overwhelmed, overloaded, and overscheduled, it means that the things that could really change the course of your business–like Jenny’s video series–often get left behind.

Jenny said that once she realized that becoming a “film person” wasn’t part of her vision for the project, she was able to get clear on what seat at the table she really wanted to be in.

Then, she could identify all the other “seats” she needed and find the right people to fill those roles.

Now, I understand that that in & of itself might sound intimidating. Maybe you’re not in a position to make that kind of investment or maybe you’re not connected to the right people.

But once you know how you want to position yourself in a project, you can start to get creative about making it happen: maybe you can trade services, maybe you can ask for introductions, maybe you can set up a revenue share, etc…

Don’t table a project just because YOU don’t know how to make it happen.

Get clear on your vision and your role in that vision–and then get creative about the rest.

Listen to this week’s episode & subscribe:

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Using a Video Series to Scratch Your Creative Itch with Jennifer Dopazo

Using a Video Series to Scratch Your Creative Itch with Jennifer Dopazo

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How Jenny realized her business was running on “autopilot” (not in a good way) and decided to do something that would surround her with the people who inspire her
  • Why you need to get clear on what seat you want to sit in–and then determine what other chairs you need to fill in around you to make that happen
  • How Jenny used her focus on community to build the vision for the series–and how that’s helped her tie the video series back to her agency and bring in clients

Where do many small businesses drop the ball? They make something good, but never achieve greatness because they fail to be intentional about every aspect of a project.

But Jennifer Dopazo, owner and creative mastermind behind design and digital strategy firm Candelita, and my guest on this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., isn’t like most business owners.

Every day her inbox filled up with projects that she completed on autopilot with no real excitement. She dabbled in all the tactics that the books and gurus said she should to build her business—blogs, social media, and more—but these efforts didn’t feel authentic or aligned with her company’s mission or vision. Although she got clients from these with efforts, they were clients that weren’t a good fit. Something was missing.

That’s when I realized that it was not only about the type of work, or industry or market or you name it, but it also had to do with the person behind the project and how I could connect with them.

— Jennifer Dopazo

At this point, her client list included mostly big brands and corporations. Although corporations and independent business owners share many of the same struggles, Jennifer was intrigued by small business owners and their freedom to chart their own course without board approval and multiple meetings to get stakeholder buy-in.

I’m more compelled to work with people who want to build a business because they want a better life for their family.

— Jennifer Dopazo

She decided to step out of her creative comfort zone to find the connection she craved and to create something that would support the independent business owner. The idea for a video series started to form. She researched, developed a strategy, and reached out to other professionals who could make her vision come true. The result: The video web series The Fabricant Way.  

Not only does The Fabricant Way support the independent business owner and highlights them in their natural settings, this project allowed Jennifer to reconnect with her community and satisfied a creative itch that wasn’t being met.

With the End Goal in Mind: “It’s not about me. It’s about them.”

Jennifer was very intentional about the role she wanted to play in the video series.

The one thing that was certain was that I wasn’t going to put myself in a position where I needed to learn how to do this. Me becoming a film person was not part of the vision.

I decided to look around to find someone whose superpower was video.

— Jennifer Dopazo

She considered the needs of all stakeholders in the series. It started with her, but quickly she considered the needs of the entrepreneurs she interviewed, what the viewer would prefer, and how to offer different ways to use and consume the content she created. Her vision was focused.

Her focus reminded me of something Brian P. Moran said in his book, the 12 Week Year—vision is how you decide that what you want is a given and is in no way “fluffy.” There was no fluff about Jennifer’s end goal either: She had a very clear vision of what she wanted the web series to be. To achieve her vision, she got the “right people in the right seats to make it the best” it could be.

Take a listen to the full podcast where Jennifer and I explore her journey, how her thought process evolved, the similarities between independent business owners and the much larger corporate clients she’s worked for, how this new creative outlet supports her design business, and her continued commitment to her community.

Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe on iTunes to access all the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast episodes and learn from ambitious small business owners like you.