Sramana: What platforms did you use to advertise?
Dan Roitman: In our initial phase we used acquisition email. We did that for the first eight months. We then built the business one or two channels at a time. We focused on building out one to two channels per year. I think people fail because they advertise in too many channels at the same time. When you have limited dollars you need to focus on limited channels and prove them. Today we advertise in every possible source you can think of online, but we got there over time.
Sramana: You said you had one experience where you were able to run a campaign and optimize it 1,500 percent. Would you talk about that?
Dan Roitman: We did not have a focused message. When people came to our site, we were offering multiple products and levels. We were not honing in on presenting one decision to visitors. In hindsight, that would be considered to be a rookie mistake in direct marketing circles. In marketing, and perhaps it even applies to life, you want to focus on one decision which leads to one action. Once I corrected that mistake, things took off.
The first problem to solve was getting enough customers. We had to get the messaging to get those people. First, we needed an ad that would resonate with people. Second, we needed a landing page that people would respond to. Solving those issues alone led us to a multimillion dollar business. From there we had to build everything else out from scratch. We went from a few orders a day to dozens. Our company focus then shifted away from marketing for a year and a half because had to concentrate on infrastructure.
Sramana: What was special about infrastructure that you needed to do to fulfill the orders?
Dan Roitman: Infrastructure includes people, systems, and processes. Even today all of our company project plans fall into either infrastructure building or revenue generation. Early on I had a friend fulfilling orders, and it was not until he broke down that I realized I needed to get more people to help. I then came across the idea of hiring temp labor. It was a great stopgap solution. I hired temps from a local agency and asked for shipping clerks and other specific descriptions. They sent people at rates I could afford.
That freed me up to spend more time building standard operating procedures. I wrote a guide for our customer service team which gave clear instructions on how to handle customer requests. I built standard procedures for packaging the products. I built the first version of most standards we still use today although I would have to say they are much more comprehensive and evolved from back then. Once I had repeatable processes I was able to start thinking about hiring the right people to run those processes.
I had to read like crazy to figure this all out. I got involved with various organizations as well. I read a book called “E-Myth” which I think is great. It talked about how ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things through systems. At the same time, the book talks about working on your business instead of in your business and the need to think strategically.
Ultimately, we ran out of office space. We were shipping out of the second story of an office building which was located in a strip mall. I had a really inexpensive office space, and after taking over two adjacent offices I realized that when deliveries came we were literally stopping traffic. There was no loading dock. We had all kinds of logistical challenges. I moved the company from Maryland to Philadelphia to be closer to my supplier and because I loved the city. From there we built the business up from scratch in a much more structured way.