In this interview episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast, Anton speaks with Drop Ship Lifestyle community member and coach, Jeff Tottenham.
Jeff has been a member of Drop Ship Lifestyle for nearly five years, and he's been one of our coaches for the past few years. During those five years, Jeff has started a few dropshipping stores, a couple he shut down, but one has brought him massive success that he has been able to grow and scale to an exciting new level.
Anton and Jeff discuss in this episode when it's time to 'pull the plug' on a store, and what it's like running a successful store in a highly-competitive niche. The two also talk new strategies and Shopify apps, plus a bit of mindset advice from the view of a DSL coach.
Anton: Hey everybody. Anton from eCommerce Lifestyle. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today we're doing a another interview episode. I'm speaking with Jeffrey Tottenham. If you're a part of Drop Ship Lifestyle, you'll definitely recognize his face or his voice most likely because he has spoken and helped out a ton of students through our coaching program. So Jeff's been with Drop Ship Lifestyle for a long time now. Not sure how long, but I know the store's been up and running and growing for four years, which is huge. So Jeff, thanks for being here. Appreciate you hopping on the call.
Jeff: Yeah, good to see you man. Thanks for having me. Yeah, no, I've been in business for, it'd be four and a half years or like four and a half years. It'd be five years, like in April. So yeah, that I've been just going at this full go.
Anton: Yep. Yep. And definitely taking advantage of the lifestyle size. we're friends on Facebook, I see all [inaudible 00:00:48] and golf and yeah, that's his fun life.
Jeff: I got to actually stop partying and skiing and golfing so much because I got so much to do to the business. But yeah, it does, man. It's been life changing for me.
Anton: Yeah. So that's actually something that, I guess we could start off, like I know a little bit of your backstory just because we've spoken at previous retreats, but yeah, most people I'm sure like when they talk to you from the community, it's probably just like, Google ads, optimization and things like that. But can you just tell people, I guess like what your previous life was and how you got into eCommerce?
Jeff: Yeah. So I started the business about four and a half years ago. At that point I was running large health clubs. The last club that I was working at had like 13,000 members. I had like 150 people working for me. So I was working like 15 hours a day. It was nuts. And I had like been searching for a new business online for a couple of years and I had read the Four Hour Work Week.
Jeff: Of course, right? And so I recognized the dropshipping model but didn't actually get into it for about two years until I found your course. Price point I was at on your course was $700.
Anton: Okay. Okay.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah.
Anton: First 500 people or so maybe.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I got the course, I was still working and I built a site. It was my first, well it was the first site I built, I built it for like a deck box niche, like deck boxes, like storage box. Yeah. Like storage boxes for outside. So I got it going. I mean the site was a disaster, but I got my first sale like within the first month and I wish, it's like I knew that. And funny enough it's kind of a crazy story. I went to this like Tony Robbins Seminar, right? It was like a four day thing. One of those things where you like walk on fire and all that.
Anton: Oh yeah.
Jeff: The next day I was like, screw it. I freaking quit my job. I gave them notice and I went full in off of a sale that I made $50 on.
Jeff: Yeah, man. So I ended up closing that site. And then I started up this site that I currently have. But I mean the first six months I was doing it, I was just getting my ass kicked. And so I tried opening, I opened two more stores while I had that other store going, both flopped. I tried to, I got into this ceiling fan niche. I got every supplier and I got killed. Like I got killed. Everyone. I just, I couldn't make it happen. And so I ended up going back to my original site and I just doubled down on it and I figured it out. And about 12 or 13 months in, I really started getting some legs on it and I haven't looked back.
Anton: But you put in the time. You made it happen. Yeah. You didn't get-
Jeff: Well, not only that, man, but when I quit my job I had like maybe four months of runway. So I mean it was the real deal, man. It was like do or die and that's what I did and I figured it out.
Anton: That's awesome. People are definitely listening and they're like, I don't know, is my store dead? Am I trying something that's never going to work? So it was, you said ceiling fans. Like what about that was just like this isn't going to happen versus things that-
Jeff: Well I mean, once you really get into this, I mean, everything's about the PLAs, right, because the only way you could get these things off the ground is by paid advertising in the beginning. And I basically, I mean now when I look for suppliers, I'm looking for suppliers that have less than 20 competitors in the PLAs or actually less than 10.
Jeff: And, I kind of found a way, where I find the smaller, up and coming, manufacturers, man. And like I put them on the map and then I just, I end up owning their stuff, a couple of years in and it's been working out, so it's just about, you got to dig and find the right suppliers. It's all about the suppliers. That's what I preach.
Anton: And that's so huge because people think, from day one like, "Oh, I just want these three gold suppliers." But like you said, you get your foot in the door with the ones that are up and coming, then you're the one that's going to have that better pricing in a few years. You're going to have the best support from that company. You're going to-
Jeff: Oh yeah.
Anton: And you're just going to be able to dominate that company.
Jeff: Yeah. It's a slower burn that way. But I mean, I've got a nice solid foundation and of course I'm in like the worst like hyper competitive furniture niche you could be in, of course. But I'm making it work, man.
Anton: Awesome. Awesome. I love it. So again, like three years since you actually got like the ball really rolling, making money from it, you obviously have a lot of wins along the way. What I love about you is, I know you just didn't build it and sit back to see like, okay, now I make this money. Like you're always doing new things. You're always expand-
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Anton: You got to do. So yeah, obviously a lot doesn't work, but for the things that do work [inaudible 00:06:05] recent things that you have had that you think would be helpful to share with people.
Jeff: Okay. So I mean, I listed out a bunch and I'll give you some game changers. So I mean, the first thing that really helped me out was about two years ago, I switched over to the Google shopping app, which is now currently the Google Shopping App in the course. That was huge because I was sending maybe 1,800 skus at that point to Google. And when I flipped it around, I went from 1,800 to 25,000 skus. Oh, game changer, man. I mean that was the real deal. And I have images for all the different colors. So I mean that was huge. And then, I mean that Google shopping app actually that connects with judge.me, which is a review thing. So I could curate my own reviews, right. And then send the star reviews into my shopping ads and my click through rate, like went through the roof.
Jeff: So like, I mean it all just kind of, that was like a huge move. That really made a difference for my business. And then from there, the next thing that really helped out was I had like all custom emails done. Like abandoned cart sequences, the whole thing, the whole buyer experience, shipping notifications, everything. And that just like a pop up strategy, all that. And I mean that really, that vaulted the business even higher. So those were like two big moves that really helped out a lot.
Jeff: And then like recently, I've been doing a lot of search text campaigns for the brand names, the manufacturer names and just using like modified broad match, exact match and a little bit of phrase match and just like really dialing them in and it's just like 20X returns right off the rip.
Jeff: You know, so.
Anton: Yeah, I think that's important to talk about too, because I know you do talk a good amount about return on ad spend. People, especially when they're new, they're like scared and they don't know what can be realistic. And they might think like, "Oh well, how am I ever going to get profit out?" But I know the numbers that you're showing your Google account are just like crazy high. So you can see 20X or like search text ads right now. So what that means for everybody listening is like you spend $1,000, you can get $20,000 in revenue. And I know for a lot of your shopping campaigns you're even like above that, right?
Jeff: I mean some like some of my good brands, I mean, I'm getting, 20, 30X. I got one guy, I'm getting like 40X returns and then I got a couple of students getting 40X returns and that's for the shopping ads. Right? And I mean recently like something that's really like this has been something like in the last year that I really dialed in was how I break apart my shopping campaigns. Right? And you probably do the same thing.
Jeff: But I break, so I have an Alpha Beta campaign and then I do every brand as an ad group. So I separate my ad groups by brand and then my product waterfall for the ad group goes. So you select brand, product type, item ID. And how that really helped is, when you separate by product type, you can start getting benchmarks for all the different categories and then you just, you dial in your bids and then you basically got to find like the sweet spot for impression share for your Betas, right? Because like every niche is different. Like some niches you got to be at like 20%. I got guys that are like 50% search impression share on their Betas and they're getting like 20X returns.
Jeff: You know what I mean? So like that's kind of like the art of it. But like I keep my impression share for the Alphas pretty much, 80, 90%, even a 100. And actually what I found with the Alphas is, if you bid too high, you start getting generic traffic.
Anton: Yeah, they'll seep through somehow, I don't know. Yeah.
Jeff: So once you find that sweet spot, man, that's how you get the returns.
Anton: I'm glad you said that because it really is, right. There's like a framework, but the numbers are still the unknowns. That's where you have to actually be in there and analyzing and making decisions.
Jeff: And every niche I coach, it's different. Like there's no black and white, it's like you got to like feel it out and test it but once you get there, man, it works.
Anton: Oh yeah.
Jeff: And I haven't even touched Facebook stuff. I mean, I'm getting like 20X returns on my Facebook and like my campaigns are nonsense. Like I haven't [crosstalk 00:10:51] even gotten, I haven't even got to it.
Anton: It's just like a basic remarketing campaign going.
Jeff: Yeah. So I got remarketing campaigns and I basically broke up the budgets just kind of based on how many days out they are. Well, I've been listening to some of your stuff, haven't had time to get up to date on it. But like Facebook this year, Facebook is going to be my focus. I mean, I don't know what type of returns you're getting for your eComm sites, but I don't see why I can't get 50% return.
Anton: It's insane.
Jeff: Or 50X. It's insane. Yeah.
Anton: It's easy money. Like it's not scalable. I say that, but like I wish I could say like, okay, well I'm just going to 50X my budget tomorrow. Then it's not. But for what it is, yeah, it's great. It's like a no brainer to set it up.
Jeff: Facebook's literally Google when the clicks were 5 cents right now.
Anton: Yeah, it still is.
Jeff: I mean people, it's like jump on the boat guys. It's not going to be like this forever.
Anton: 100%. Well, I want to say one more thing because you had sent in something that you're doing with your header bar, right? And customizing where you're offering [inaudible 00:00:11:49], because that's huge too. People like, I do the group calls with Drop Ship Lifestyle numbers and we had one yesterday, the first Wednesday of every month. People are like, "I have these three suppliers I'm getting my sales for. I can't offer discounts because the margin's not there." And they say it like, well there's different ways to negotiate with supplier, but you also just can't have, if that's the case, you can't just have a flat discount that you're giving everybody because why sell at a loss when that's the goal is to be profitable every sale.
Anton: So let's talk about what you did there to-
Jeff: So, well, I mean I just, I got this app that you could create header bars based on collections. So basically I have header bars for every one of my brands, but they have different messages based on what the margins are, right? So I could give different offers. I could say, all right, hey, if you like for my good brands, I could say, "Hey, if you could hit this minimum purchase value, I could do 10% off instead of 5% off." And so every one of my brands has different messages, even different product pages have different messages. And that has helped tremendously to get the big orders, right? Like where you try and get those volumes like, "Hey, you want 20% off, here's your mark you got to hit." So that really helped a lot.
Jeff: And then I have a, basically I put as like a blanket pop up as an exit intent. I said, "$50 off your first order minimum purchase value of like 400 whatever." Right? That's kind of my blanket offer. And what's amazing is half the people, even though they could've got 10% off this huge order, they just take the $50 off. They don't see the bar. So it's like you don't miss them either way. So I've been playing around with that and it really, that right there helps so tremendously because you've got these low margin brands on your site, but then you've got the high margins and you can't just put one offer. So I've been doing that with students too, and they're definitely getting a results from that.
Anton: Yeah. Because at the end of the day if people don't want 5% off that one, don't buy it. Okay.
Anton: Yeah. So the technology you're using, like what app are you using for the exit intents $50 off? Using Privy or something else?
Jeff: I'm using. Ah, what is it? Wait, my exit intent is, oh, I'm using Justuno and Klaviyo and then for the welcome header bar, it's called Welcome Header Bar by Zotabox.
Anton: Yep. Yep.
Jeff: Welcome Header Bar by Zotabox. And you could actually put a timer in it, which is kind of cool, but you can't like set it to expire every three days. It's like, I don't know, every every night it expires or something like that.
Anton: Yep. Yeah. And for anybody listening that's like, "Oh, I want to know what these tools are", I'll post them all up on eCommerce Lifestyle on the website after this episode goes live so you can just click everything from there and go check these out.
Anton: But yeah, those are definitely like all really good tips. And like, honestly if you're up and running a store, you're not doing these things yet, do them, do them. Oh yeah.
Jeff: I got one more hack for you guys, too, that I'm having success with Bing. And so Bing, right, you can't use the Alpha Beta structure because the priorities don't work, right? But you kind of can. So what I found is I'll run an Alpha with higher bids and then I just plow negative keywords into the Alpha, all the generic stuff. And I'm getting my bing to look like my Google campaigns now, which is great because I was getting killed on Bing for a while.
Anton: So with that, like what would you say like percentage of budget, let's just say you spent $100 in ads on Google, what would you spend on Bing at the same time period?
Jeff: And then so it's like, if I spent like $6,000 in a month on Google, I'm going to spend like $1,200 on Bing.
Anton: Yep. Yep. Okay, cool. So we're about the same. Yeah, we typically, it's like 20% usually that we're putting in there because, and like you said, there is a little bit you have to customize but definitely worth clicking a few things, transferring your campaign over.
Jeff: Oh yeah. And then, I mean the search text on Bing like crazy. I mean you have to use exact match and you have to use just phrase match. But as long as you do that man, I mean that works like crazy, too.
Anton: Yep. And what people might find too, like Google is extremely strict on like, trademarks and different words you can use like company names.
Anton: So some company names, if you have huge suppliers you can't use on Google, but Bing will let you do that. So like, if it doesn't work on one, it's still might work on the other. So yeah.
Jeff: Oh, yeah, Man. Yeah, absolutely.
Anton: Awesome man. Well, I appreciate it. Those are great tips. Again, I think everybody can implement a lot from this. Do you have any questions for me? Anything you-
Jeff: I do, I do. So when you're coaching, like at what point do you tell a student to pull the trigger? Because I mean I struggle with this.
Anton: It's really, really tough. So part of what I've been trying to do, on these interviews and sharing this is honestly trying to get people to talk about failures too. What I've been trying to get out of people, a lot of it is like, "Oh, this store failed but it wasn't because just of the products. It was because of me." And I think a lot of times that is it.
Anton: Like for example, you know I spoke to Joe the other day and he said like he had some stores that didn't work but the store that did, worked because of those other two. So it's really, it is about persisting. It's really tough. I basically tell people like, "Listen, if you know you're not going to do it, then just don't put the time in. Because it's one of those things like you have to go all in on." Like you said, you quit your job. I don't think people have to quit their job. I mean, if you're managing 150 employees [crosstalk 00:17:30] job, but if you have like a normal work schedule, it can happen. But like people will ask me like, "Oh, I can't do anything for three months. Should I start now?"
Anton: And like nothing's going to happen if you don't do it. So I guess trying to tell people to be serious about like with themselves, are you going to do what it takes or are you not? And if you're really not, it's fine. But accept that sooner than later. So I try to put the vision on them and make them really think about it because it's not for everybody. Not everybody can push through.
Jeff: Oh, absolutely. I mean, sometimes I see these niches and these guys are jumping into stuff that it's just hyper competitive. They can't get the pricing, and it's like, I push them to like try to find better suppliers, but then there comes a point where it comes down to the student's commitment level and how hard they want to go especially in these competitive niches.
Jeff: So yeah, that's the toughest thing to figure out when you're coaching is like, yeah, where do you tell someone to pull the plug?
Anton: And that's a good point. Because like you just said, right. Let's say you're talking to that person, right. And they already, like they went through the program, they built their store, they got the suppliers that they first got approved with, and then sometimes they have to hear probably like, "Hey, those aren't the best for you. That's not where you're going to be able to run Google ads profitably. Go out and do it again. Find another tier, like go to different ones, like have alternate ways of getting suppliers." I'm like that for a lot of people could be like a big blow where they're like, "Well, I just did all this." So,
Anton: Yeah, I'm really, I wish I was better, honestly, with the mindset stuff. I think I just realized early on like this is what I tell people this too. Like I realized if I don't do the work, somebody else is going to do it and they're going to be the one that wins. They're going to be with the big business. They're going to be the one that gets to play golf every day and go snowboarding. So I would say it's really, it's up to you, like do you want to hit? If not, somebody else will. So it's really tough until you ... What's good is like once people start to get sales, at least, I think that validates a lot. So trying to push them to that. And then just knowing once you're there, it's [inaudible 00:19:32] optimizing.
Jeff: Yeah, I mean the thing that really throws me off is if it doesn't happen often, but I've coached one student in the same niche over like a couple of year period and you got one that fails and one that succeeds, but it's the same niche and it comes down to their mindset. It really does.
Anton: And that's why I don't like telling people like, yeah, it's not going to work. Because I've heard that so many times, so many times. And honestly I'll just, whatever. The other day when I was talking to, I think it was Joe when we were doing a call, he said like he shut down a store cause it wasn't working. And I said like, "Can you just tell me what it is?" He said it doesn't work, whatever. And he said on the call it was like, oh, electric bikes. I'm sure you've heard electric bikes before. And he told me it doesn't work. I know people who have made a ton of money in that. I'm not saying it's the easiest thing, but and that's what's funny because then that store, Joe said like it failed and now he has a store that he hit 2 million in 13 months and he could've done that probably with the other store too, but people have to go through those phases.
Anton: So yeah, I think anybody can make anything work. It's just a matter of somes going to be harder than others. Take more time. But you're in one of the most competitive industries there is and you've been doing well and growing.
Jeff: I know, I know. It's crazy.
Anton: So it's got to put it on them.
Jeff: Yeah. Well thanks man. I'm glad I'm not the only one that struggles with that.
Anton: No, no, no. So, yeah man.
Jeff: Yeah, man. All right, man. Well thank you. Thanks for the interview. This has been great.
Anton: Of course. Thank you. Yeah. And if anybody is listening to this and is in Drop Ship Lifestyle and wants to talk to Jeff. Seriously, book a call. This guy's awesome, and if you're coming to Prague, we're going to be out there drinking some of the [inaudible 00:21:06].
Jeff: Oh boy. I can't wait.
Anton: Less than one.
Jeff: Oh boy. All right, man. I'll see you then.
Anton: All right. Thanks Jeff.
Jeff: Take care, brother.
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