In this interview episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast, Anton speaks with Drop Ship Lifestyle member, Allan Philips.
The two talk about how Allan learned that hiring isn't always as easy as it seems... and how to track conversions for draft orders and phone orders on Shopify.
Below is a screenshot from our private Facebook group of a big win Allan celebrated this spring. Skip to TS 02:18 to hear the full conversation.
Anton: Hey everybody, Anton Kraly here from eCommerceLifestyle.com. Today we are doing an interview episode with a another member of the Drop Ship Lifestyle community. Excited to be talking with Allan Phillips and he's got a pretty interesting story. I was just looking through Labs, which is our private Facebook group. And I forgot about one of the posts he made somewhat recently, which was pretty amazing. But yeah, Allan, thanks for hopping on here.
Allan: Oh yeah, happy to be here. It's kind of wild.
Anton: Yeah, it's awesome. Speaking of that, we were talking for a couple of minutes before we started recording and I know, typically when we start these, is talking about people's journeys, how they got involved with eCommerce and everybody has kind of a different thing that kind of got them on this path. What brings you here today? How'd you get into this?
Allan: Yeah, yeah. Through a friend I got involved in, first time I have a full time job. My wife stays at home with the kids. I've got three kids. That's the background. But I got interested in online auctions, buying returned merchandise or something. I would bid on it, pick it up at a warehouse, list it on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, whatever, and just got kind of addicted to looking for value at different places. And it was fun, but I got tired of it really quickly, looking for new products. Like I said, I'm working, I'm squeezing this in on the margins and so I started looking for different places. Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I could just sell the same product over and over?
Allan: I did some searching, I found a podcast where you were a guest. I wish I remembered the name of the podcast. If I remember it, I'll get it to you. But I was like, this is what I need to do. And so I attended a webinar. I was like, okay, this looks legit. Got into it. And that's the story. That was couple of years ago, probably a little over two years ago that I signed up for the course.
Anton: And the store that you're building and running now, is that the first store you started when you got going with this business model?
Allan: It is.
Anton: It is. Okay. Yeah, because I saw the post I was referring to, was when you made it in May where you had a massive, massive, massive sales day and congratulations on that. But it seems like from what we also talked about a little bit, that a lot of your orders are, they're, they're definitely high ticket, but they're way up there because something I guess that's unique about what it is you do, is a lot of it isn't just people go to your website and checkout. You have people kind of interacting with you, which is your business before they purchase.
Allan: Right. A lot of it is custom, there are lots of, there's technical questions and I had no idea. When I got into this I was like, this doesn't seem complicated and there's so much I didn't know. And so there's a lot of handholding. There's a lot of questions. There's a lot of customization that goes on there. And so yeah, a lot of our orders are placed over the phone.
Anton: And all that technical stuff, you figured that out along the way, once you got into it?
Allan: Yeah, yeah. Got my nose busted several times. I made mistakes almost sold, silly mistakes, like almost sold something for less than what I was going to have to pay for it. Canceled, all of it. Just learning the products and the market.
Anton: Lesson for everybody, you learn as you go. Nobody goes into it thinking they know it all. And if you do think you know it all, you'll learn quickly. Like, oh yeah, there's a lot behind this.
Allan: You must get started. You're not going to know what, you're not going to know it well enough to, if you sell your first phone call, you're lucky. More than likely they're going to throw you off with something you haven't thought about and you're just going to have to figure it out.
Anton: Yup. Okay. Awesome. You've obviously, you figured it out and I'm sure like just with all of us, it's a work in progress, but at this point, something recently that you've had as a win in your business, what would you say that would be?
Allan: hiring a full time VA.
Anton: That's awesome. First, have you had a part time person or do you go straight to full time?
Allan: I went straight to full time.
Anton: Okay, great.
Allan: I was getting orders, doing service stuff. I'm working my normal job and I, for a few days in a row I was coming home at night, just telling my wife's, I'm going to just, I'm going to get rid of my store, it's driving me crazy. She's was like, "No, no, you've put in way too much. It's time to figure this other part out." Made my first hire. It was awful. A bad VA is like paying someone to systematically ruin your life so that did not last long. That was about two weeks and had to fire that person. And took my time. Didn't just hire somebody for relief, but understood that this is going to take time to find the right person and luckily just found, made a great hire and now I'm able to take a step back and breathe a little bit, look at the business a little bit removed from it and try to make strategic decisions about how to move forward.
Anton: Nice. And that's massive. That really does change the game. It's totally flipping what you've been doing for a couple of years now to what you can do. The person you brought in, are they, I guess what I would consider a general manager? Are they doing a little of everything? All the operations like you talked about?
Allan: They're, most of their time right now is spent doing sales and service, customer service. Quoting, following back up, answering questions. But they're going to be a big part of new products being added, they will be wearing more than one hat. But I still am making calls to new suppliers. I'm trying to shape the overall direction, but they're definitely kind of filling into that.
Anton: And I think that's smart too. Like you said, you had that one bad experience already. Kind of bringing this person up to speed. I've made this mistake, a lot of people make this mistake, but they bring somebody on and they just think like, okay, I'm just going to send them a list of what I do every day and it's all going to get done perfectly. And like you said, sometimes you're just paying somebody to lose your business money and it's just, it's definitely better to build them up and build the responsibility over time. That's huge. I guess for anybody listening, that maybe they're in a similar situation and they're feeling like, okay, I'm doing the work, it's working, but I need to bring somebody on what's I guess, a tip or a piece of advice you can give on bringing somebody in that wasn't like the first time? Is it just go slower? Or anything else you did differently?
Allan: Yeah, look for a good hire and not just the least bad hire. That was kind of mine. Because you'll find a lot of UpWork or wherever you go, you'll get some responses and it can be discouraging. And so you may latch on to someone thinking this is it, this is not terrible so this must be it. And that's not the way to do it. I would say, take your time, have a system, have some way to disqualify people early. If they don't even get over this hurdle, they're certainly not going to be able to do this other stuff. And that will save you a lot of time.
Anton: Yeah. So important. Like you said, when you're hiring, because it's like out of desperation, almost like, like you said, you weren't sure what you'd been wanting to do with your store and when you just want somebody you take who is the best out of what you have. That's massive.
Allan: Whereas I probably could have waited a couple more days and gotten some inquiries from some, maybe the person that I ended up with would've.
Anton: Awesome. For everybody else, listening, don't rush it because the trajectory, if you have the person for, even if it's a month, if it's six months, if it's a year, if it's five years, the way your business grows or doesn't grow is going to be largely dependent on what type of person that is. Definitely worth the time.
Allan: And you're going to put in so much time, even if they're great because you've got to slow down and teach them how to do what you do. And if they're great, they're going to make mistakes maybe once and not again and they'll systematically improve. But I was having to go back and fix things it was bad. It was a, it was not an investment. It was just always a dumpster fire going on at any given moment. I had to go back and play damage control.
Anton: Yeah. Well, I'm happy at least, it seems like you got the right person in place now and it's always an evolving thing. Hopefully they continue to grow with your company and yeah, lead to the growth of it. That's awesome. I think that's really good advice for everybody that is looking on, to bring somebody on their team.
Anton: I would say also, something that I think I can help you with, we kind of talked about before the episode also is what should you do now that your time is freed up? And there's probably a lot of different things. I don't know your actual numbers and your business that well or your store, but the biggest growth lever that most people have, most businesses have when they're just one person, really comes down to marketing and where dollars are going and how many of those dollars are being invested into different ad sources and to different products. I think we could talk about that but it's probably more important to talk about your specific situation because I know the question you had for me is related to tracking in general. Do you want to explain how your store works?
Allan: Yeah. A lot of my orders are done either over the phone because they're larger ticket. People just have a higher comfort level or they're custom and we ended up sending a draft order and they complete the purchase. And it's just not as clean of a, it's hard to optimize ad spend on Google ads, et cetera because you don't really know where they're coming from. I guess the question would be, and I will say that I started layering on before I had this figured out, still have it figured out. But before I had a handle on, I started adding in Facebook, I started adding on Bing and then I have all these things running out there and I'm like, I have no idea where my sales were coming from. Every now and then I get lucky and it shows me.
Allan: Started spending lot of money. And finally I was like, until I get a handle on this, I'm going to narrow it back down to Google ads to the products that I know we're selling to get this under control. And that's helped a great deal. But now I'm in the process of trying to build it back up to other other products and things like that. That's kind of the situation.
Anton: Okay, cool. Yeah, I saw your question so I made some notes, but just so people listening understand the reason that tracking is an issue, it's not that you didn't set it up correctly, it's that when people are ordering, they're not clicking a link, going to your website, buying, having the pixel fire and the sale being attributed to whatever ad set it was. That's the issue. Yeah, how do you deal with that? And it's not fun, but a lot of it is manual and a lot of it still is a guessing game. And from what we've found, that kind of the best way to do it is just by literally manually tracking and picking a return on ad spend that you're comfortable with, knowing that you might be way off on what's attributed where. How many phone or draft orders would you say get a month? Units or number of orders.
Allan: Probably, let's say we get maybe five.
Anton: Okay, okay.
Allan: I don't do it. My average order value is $8,000.
Anton: Oh wow. Okay. Five sounds small, but you're talking like 40, $50,000.
Allan: Right, so it's not crazy. But, I would say, let's just say four, our draft orders.
Anton: Okay. Yup. So I'm sure right now if these are on the phone, are you asking the people how they found you? Memory's always...
Allan: That's actually something that I need to be sure that my VA is doing as well.
Anton: Yeah. Yeah. 100% because, yeah, they're spending money with you. They're on the phone. If they didn't call you and they just did it through a draft order, you sent them a link for you, you can call them. They're going to pick up. I thought that's really the main thing to start with, taking advantage of talking to the customers. What's good is it's not some inexpensive thing where it's not worth a phone call. I would turn it into a whole conversation and try to get as much information from the customer as you can also. Maybe they needed more of what you have, even ask them where else they looked. Ask them why they chose you and just get some research out of it, but also to the best of their ability, where did they find you?
Anton: You also said you started doing one thing that I was going to recommend, which is keeping your ads as simple as possible. If Google is profitable for you and it had been before you added everything else, I would stick with Google Ads and then I would still have Facebook remarketing just as dynamic with a small budget just so it's there. As like a catchall. And what I would make sure to do too is when customers said, even if they say, "Oh, I saw a Facebook ad and even though Facebook is always remarketing, you can ask them what, do they remember what they were searching for on Google? Were they comparison shopping? And it really is that type of process.
Anton: From there, what I recommend doing is having a Google sheet that just has all of your orders in it. Let's just say there was five draft orders this month. You would have those five orders and let's just say, it said for each one, Google Ads, I saw a Google Shopping Ad or I found you organically. Whatever it was, take that data. And then from there, you can go into your Google ads account and pull up your dashboard and what you're looking to do is kind of combine them and there's not a way, obviously it's import the data, but what you can at least do is if again, let's say you've got five draft orders last month and you see that they're for two or three products, then you go in your Google ads account and you see you spent, $500 on clicks for product A, and B and C.
Anton: It's like that literally is a meshing of them manually. Not as clean as it could be and as it is with most stores but that's kind of the process. And, another thing to note is just make sure you never do any type of auto bidding or target return on ad spend bidding. It's not going to be tracked. You tell Google, I'm willing to spend up to 10X return ad spend or whatever it is. Not an option. But yeah, it's just more of that manual review. Adding in one more step. But in my opinion, it's worth it because it's a big order.
Allan: It's working and I'm comfortable going, I don't know exactly what's working, but I can kind of feel the proximity of what. And I don't know, i feel that everything works together to drive the results.
Anton: It definitely does. And that's a big thing too. That's why even Facebook, if people are, if Facebook is small budget and that's remarketing and everybody's telling you Facebook, but you know they found you on Google first, I wouldn't cut those secondary drivers of traffic. Or if you are advertising on any community forums or blogs or anything, I wouldn't cut that either. I would just make sure that the customers were asked. And the main thing that you're looking when you're kind of mesh your two dashboards together is the actual products, and I'm sure you know this, but it's not, if you have a 1,000 products, you're not going to sell a 1,000 products. The same type will sell over and over and over.
Anton: The optimization game that I would be doing if I had your store is looking at, you have two years of data now. Looking back two years, seeing where a lot of my clicks were going, see what hasn't sold. Then I would check to see if I was spending a lot on it. Is it just an optimization thing? And if it doesn't look like it is, if my offer seems similar to the top three people doing it and I just think it's that that product doesn't move that much, then that's where I'd be cutting back spend. And you don't even have to at first, dump a bunch of more money into your budget. Just move it. Just negate all the things that haven't done well over the past two years. But that's definitely what I would do. And for that amount of orders, I think you could make some big changes that would, yeah, that would have your money be spent on more profitable products.
Allan: Yeah. Thank you.
Anton: And then so also, picking whatever return on ad spend you're looking for. We spend a lot, so we go for typically 10X or better. I interviewed Jeff who's a coach of Drop Ship Lifestyle just a couple of days ago. Not live yet, that, that'll be live soon. But on his, some of his stuff people do, it's direct response. They'll buy right away. He has some ad sets where it's a 10X front ad spend, then he has some that are 40 and that's insane. And the problem is with these draft orders, you will never see that. But even if you just say, I'm comfortable with 15. Just look at those numbers and base it off that.
Allan: And that's something else that I'd put out there is, I got involved in the coaching program early on and that is a tremendous investment in the store. If anybody's considering doing that, that would be money well spent. And so I've worked with Jeff in the beginning as well. And that was very helpful. I got involved with the coaching early on in the process and highly encourage anyone that is stuck or simply wanting to leverage their time and someone else's experience to take advantage of that opportunity as well.
Anton: Awesome. Yeah, I know it's helped a lot of people so happy to to hear that. And hopefully that's helpful for you. I don't know what kind of, again, return on ad spend, you want to go for. But what I would focus on as that person takes on more and more responsibilities and your business, is going into the Google ads account every couple of days and just really focusing on dialing all that in. And once you are comfortable and you think your money is going in the right places, then that's when I would start bumping it up, bumping it up and being the person that monitors that. I wouldn't outsource that until it's growing pretty heavily. I would focus on that myself.
Allan: Yup. Thank you. That's very helpful.
Anton: Of course. Yeah. Anything else I could help you with?
Allan: Man, I think that's great. That's very helpful. Thanks again for the course and the online community is fantastic. I want to thank you for that.
Anton: Of course. Thank you. I appreciate it. And congratulations again on the hire, that's a, that's big.
Anton: Appreciate it and yeah, we'll keep in touch.
Allan: All right.
Anton: All right.
Anton: Thanks Allan. Bye.
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