Motivation is what makes the difference between good and great storytelling. If you can tell people why you're doing something, not just what you're doing, they'll buy into your brand.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who rapidly prototyped their product and designed and re-designed it with the help of their community, and how they weaved that into their story.
Adam Kornfield and Joey Cofone are the founders of Baron Fig: tools for thinkers designed with a philosophy of simplicity, usefulness, and community.
Start the stupidest, simple thing that kind of looks like your product and then go from there.
Tune in to learn
- How to work with an ad agency to launch a crowdfunding campaign.
- How to increase word of mouth marketing with your product packaging.
- Why you should include long copy with your video ad.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
Download this episode on Google Play, iTunes or here!
- Store: Baron Fig
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: StitchLabs, MailChimp, Slack
Felix: Today I’m joined by Adam and Joey from Baron Fig. Baron Fig makes Tools for Thinkers designed with the philosophy of simplicity, usefulness and community and was started in 2013 and based out of New York. Welcome Adam and Joey.
Joey: Hey what’s up?
Adam: What’s going on Felix? How are you doing?
Felix: Good, good. So you’re actually one of the first companies I’ve had on, that has had that same description of your brand on all your profiles exactly the same. Usually when I have a guest on, they have one variation of the way they describe their company on Twitter, then different Instagram, different on Facebook. Obviously, you guys have given it a lot of thought into how you want to describe your company. How did you come up with this slogan or this tagline of Tools for Thinkers designed with the philosophy of simplicity, usefulness and community?
Joey: Oh man, that’s a good question. We started with The Confidant notebook back in 2013. It actually originated from me going to art school and seeing that there was no notebook that my design peers had really enjoyed, so I went to Adam. Adam do you remember that? I think it was [crosstalk 00:01:49].
Adam: Man, I remember way back in the day. It was actually way before that when we started the company, I think it was 2010 when Joey and I met each other in a meetup in New York. He was telling me then, I was a huge fan of stationary products, and he was saying like, “Yeah, in art school, everyone has a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.” When it comes to paper notebook, there was nothing that really everyone liked.
Joey: Right, the question was, why is there ubiquity in one tool and not the other and then can we solve that problem? So I presented to Adam several times over the course of a few years I think. Right?
Adam: Yes, something like that.
Joey: Yeah, it was ridiculous, and finally I think I had said it too many times, where Adam was like, “Why don’t we just do it? Let’s try.” So I guess the timing was right because we were both like, “All right, let’s do it.” We started off by emailing over 500 thinkers around the world and a thinker is designed as … Sorry, and a thinker is basically anyone who has a brain and uses that for their jobs, it can be as sexy as designer, illustrator, architect, but of course it’s pretty much everybody who works at desks and uses notebooks.
So we asked one simple question, which was, “What do you like in a sketchbook or notebook?” I sent over 500 emails because I figured, “Oh you know maybe I’ll get 10% response rate. If I can get 50 solid pieces of feedback, that’d be fantastic to start.” Apparently, the question struck a cord because we had an 80% response rate and I had over 400 email conversations going about what was missing in the notebook market and how people felt, and basically encouraging us to continue this project and try. So we took all that feedback, we put it into a Kickstarter, launched that Kickstarter ,and we ended up raising 11 times our goal and that’s when we realized that there was something to it.
Felix: So you’ve clearly have had a lot of success with Kickstarter, we’ll get to that in a bit. I want to talk about your experience of meeting each other. So you mentioned, I think Joey you mentioned that you met each other through a meetup in New York?
Joey: Yeah, Mastermind. Remember that Adam?
Adam: Yeah. It was a common friend of ours like, “Hey, we’re gonna all meetup and we’re gonna have this Mastermind group where we all kind of work on our individual projects, and we’re gonna be responsible through each other every week when we show up.” So it was an interesting idea but Joey was there, I was involved in a thing called Toastmasters. It’s like a public speaking group. The guy who organized this was one of the guys in there, and then Joey was a friend of a friend of a friend, something like that, when he was a freshman at the SVA, School of Visual Arts, studying graphic design. I was working in finance at the time, so totally different field, working in a hedge fund and I don’t know I really liked Joey’s design from the get go even as a freshman in design school.
I thought what he was making was really cool and it’s something I respect and I always tried to design. Back in high school, I made some websites for people but I was never any good. The scariest thing in the whole world to me was a blank Photoshop page, and it was just the fact that Joey could sit down and actually make something that looked good, it was very impressive to me. From there, we kind of started working on a bunch of projects together. Joey you want to tell him about that?
Joey: Yeah, when I met Adam too, it was like, you know there was this group and I guess over time you can tell who’s really, really wants this and who thinks they want it. Adam definitely exhibited ridiculous amount of determination and he still does every single day. Even our employees say if Adam gets his mind set, it’s going to happen. It’s like shear force of will. Reminds me of John Wick, if you guys have seen it. Fear the boogeyman, Adam Kornfield. Anyway, we started just meeting together separately from the group, we eventually left the group and then it all sort of trickled down into the story I told about Kickstarter.
Adam: There was an intervening period when people always say, “How do you find someone to work with?” We working on this me, Joey and one our third friends, Scott, we kind of worked together as intermediate period where we worked on a online travel website, we worked on online art school together, Joey was freelancing at the time kind of all helped him with some of the things he was doing. I would say during that period that we worked on a number of low risk projects, that we all kind of had our main thing, our main job, I was still working, Joey was still in school. It wasn’t too important to make money on something right away, but we got to see how it was working together.
I think it was about three years at that point by the time we were finally, that Joey and I were like, “Oh, let’s do this notebook thing.” By that point it was just like another project, “Okay, here’s a new one. What do we need to do. Let’s get started.” I think that was very important. I tell people today, “If you want to find someone to work with, find someone you have worked with and you’ll see if it works or not.”
Felix: Yeah, I think it’s a great of starting with a bunch of small projects with, maybe not crazy expectations because you don’t know if you guy work well together. You don’t know if this particular project you’re working on is going to be successful. You don’t want to base the potential partnership on one project itself, you want to kind of trial these things out. As you were going through this process of three years of working together, what did you notice or, basically your experience, what have you noticed about what you should be paying attention to when you are looking for a partner? What are some key things that you find important to look out for when trying to identify a key partner?
Joey: Yeah, Adam you want to take that?
Adam: Yeah sure. I mean, one is do the person show up on time? Which to Joey and I it’s huge. Whenever we would need to be somewhere, it’s amazing, say Joey and I have to meet somewhere at eleven a.m. I don’t know wherever we’re going, inevitably the two of us will both be hanging around the block somewhere around 10:40. It’s like, “Hey, you around?”
We’re both there early. It’s like not only are we there on time, we’re both there way early. You see people that show up late and they’re having a story, “Oh, the train was late, subway, this and that.” It’s like, “No, I don’t know what you need to do, if it’s important, be there on time.”
Joey: Speaking of being there on time real quick, there’s this curious thing about people who are late. They’re always late by the same amount of time. Like I have a friend, you know I don’t need to name her but she shows up 20 minutes late every time or another friend, he shows up 15 minutes late every time. That just bugs me because you’re … I’m definitely going off on this other thing but it’s just like, “You’re clearly on time for your lateness every time, so you can do it. You just have to make an adjustment or …”
Felix: I think I’m with you there though, I think if you can’t find someone that respects your time, then that kind of says a lot about what potentially could come down the line. Other than time management, any other kind of characteristics that the both of you look at?
Adam: I mean are they honest with you? Do they tell you … Are they making up stories about something or telling you what’s actually going on? Hard working and consistent to actually do what they say they’re gonna do or at least …
Joey: Follow through.
Adam: … Pretty much make it work. I mean obviously you can’t always make everything work for various reasons but do generally things get done? Respect for your opinion. Joey and I, we come from very different backgrounds, I mean I studied computer engineering and business in college and then Joey studied, went to college twice actually, four years for literature and philosophy, and then four years for graphic design, which is incredible of eight years of undergrad college. So we have very different backgrounds but it’s incredibly useful for forming a collective opinion and coming to the right idea at the end of the day. I think it’s very important to respect each others opinions along with that to have very different skills. Joey [crosstalk 00:09:53].
Joey: Absolutely, yeah. I think you’ll notice a lot of people tend to gravitate towards people who are like themselves. It’s probably some sort of pack mentality and it’s great for maybe social reasons. You hang out with people who do things that you do like, I don’t know, play video games or watch movies or something, but when it comes to business, having a partner that does what you do just adds a redundant set of skills. For example, two designers teaming up or two developers, neither one of those teams is as powerful as one designer and one developer. It’s important to, for those of you out there who are trying to get a partner and build a company or a product, that you go outside of your comfort zone and find people who are not like yourself and who can contribute things that are very different from what you do.
Felix: That makes a lot of sense, I think that’s important to know that what you’re gonna gravitate towards is not necessarily what you need for your business to be successful. Now, you mentioned that one of the first things you did early on was a survey, essentially you targeted customers, you had access to 500 thinkers, you sent them an email. How did you get, I guess this email, how were you able to reach out to 500 targeted customers?
Joey: That was good old elbow grease. We went to websites like Behance, [Drivell 00:11:21], checked out Twitter and looked for profiles where people said what they did. For example, I started with designers because I’m a designer and got their email addresses through their websites, and we created a giant, giant spreadsheet, which we still have in the archive of all the people who we reached out to.
Adam: I was gonna say, the important part of that is, don’t ask for something when you need it. If we had emailed all those people the day before our Kickstarter, “Hey, we’re making a book. Buy our stuff.” We would not have an 80% response rate. Joey how far in advance did you reach out?
Joey: Easily, five months before the Kickstarter, if not more.
Felix: Don’t ask them for help when you need it but you’re saying to prepare way ahead of time?
Joey: Yeah, don’t really, I mean we kept the email short. I think a lot of people who pitch things, I get pitches all the time in my inbox and if you send me two sentences, I’m probably gonna respond. At the very least I’ll say, “Hey, thanks but it’s not for me.” But if you send me a pitch with three paragraphs, I feel bad if I don’t respond with three paragraphs. My email that I wrote to send to all these thinkers was just like, “Hey, this is me. We’re trying to make a notebook. What do you like in sketchbook or notebook? Thanks, Joey.” And that, I think, contributed to the high conversion rate.
Felix: Did you have something to show them at that time? Did you have any pictures or was it just literally a couple lines and ask them for their feedback?
Joey: Just a couple lines.
Felix: Got it. You mentioned that a lot of them got back to you and I’m assuming that your questions were pretty open ended, so you got a lot of great information, a lot of great data coming in. How did you sift through? How did you know what kind of feedbacks you should take, which ones you can either ignore or maybe push off until a later iteration?
Joey: It was good that I was doing most of the emailing because I was also doing a good chunk of the design and so, me being directly connected to that feedback, things naturally floated to the top. You hear the same thing over and over again and you realize, “Okay, this is an important thing.” A good example of that for our products, we make Tools for Thinkers and the first one being the notebook was that it opens flat and you would think that every notebook should open flat but there are so many notebooks out there that, when you open them up, there’s this big curve on the inside where it’s attached to the spine, that makes part of the page unusable and overall, it’s a terrible experience.
We took that very seriously and we actually, because of all that feedback, because of my personal experience, we re-engineered how a spine works from the ground up, which is something that … Notebooks have been around for centuries and I guess at some point people just stopped looking in that direction and said, “Hey, let’s make computers and cellphones.” Which is fair enough but all of these evolutions and other materials and technologies had been going on while the notebook had not been evolving as much. For example, there’s glue nowadays that can stretch once it’s dry, it becomes elastic and that didn’t exist when notebooks where first invented back in the day. So we took all of the different evolutions of things that we could contribute towards a notebook and we designed what you see now as The Confidant.
Felix: You didn’t need to even take a super methodical approach to consuming, collecting the data, consuming it and analyzing it, you just made sure to immerse yourself in all the feedback and that naturally impacted your design.
Joey: Yeah, my design process is probably, when I describe it, it sounds a little hokey but it’s more like a zen experience rather than an academic one. My main strategy is to look within instead of look without. I try to really focus on how I am feeling and how I am experiencing a design that I’ve made or a product that I’ve made and what is my reaction. Not what reaction do I want because that’s just my bias interfering but how do I actually feel when I pick up this notebook. Does it really make me feel like it’s high quality? Does it want to … You know silly as it sounds, does it inspire to open it up more and use it? And things like that, it’s generally how my process works.
Felix: I think that’s important, this gut feeling, this intuition that I think a lot of entrepreneurs have but sometimes they slow themselves down by wanting to take a super academic or methodical approach and that’s probably not necessary especially in the beginning, the early days when you don’t, when just kind of looking at the numbers, it might not be as impactful as just getting the kind of qualitative feedback by you designing, or maybe you just talking to people, and getting that feedback, and not focusing so much on the raw numbers or raw data.
Adam: Right. I was gonna say, I was gonna talk a little bit about prototyping just like, I think there’s a general consensus with physical products, it’s like, “Oh you’re gonna do it the first time and it’s gonna come perfect.” It’s like, “I want to have dreamed this in my head and then eventually we’ll crank out the final perfect thing.” But it’s very iterative process that we use for this first notebook and for all of our products that come out, start with these stupidest simple thing that kind of looks like your product and then go from there. Our first version of the notebook was literally Joey covered some other notebook in canvas and like, “How did it look?” Our second one, which is my favorite was Joey literally watched a YouTube video How to Stitch Notebooks. I remember we had a meeting on a Wednesday, it was probably in 2013, he came in the next Wednesday with this hand stitched notebook, which it’s definitely not the final Confidant but it is …
Joey: It’s the Cheerios one.
Adam: The Cheer … Yeah, the boards and the spine are literally Cheerios boxes but you know what, it gave us something to look at and feel and touch. Then we could take that version to a professional bookmaker and get our next prototype. It doesn’t go directly from, “Oh, here’s my idea.” To, “Here’s the final production version.”
Felix: We’re gonna, I definitely want to talk about that a little more about prototyping. I want to go back to the description of your brand real quick. Simplicity, usefulness, that part makes sense, I can definitely see thinkers talking about this. They want something simple, they want something useful. Now the last tenets of your brand is around community. Can you talk a bit about that? How did you or why did you decide to also add some emphasis on the community aspect of your brand?
Joey: The notebook was born from a community of thinkers. Those 500, those 400 people around the world who shared their thoughts and on Kickstarter, we presented it as designed by the community, which it very much was, and it’s something that I hadn’t ever really seen before pointed out in such a clear and concise way. In a simple phrase, it’s designed by the community and initially that was just a fact. I didn’t think too much about it, it was just, “Hey, this was designed by a bunch of people.” But then I quickly understood and Adam is really good at noticing trends and stuff like this, and when people are gravitating towards something, and him and I both could see that people were responding very well to that concept.
So we’ve worked hard to make sure that that’s perpetuated in the rest of our process. Moving forward on our website, we ask for feedback all the time. There’s a dedicated page for it in The Confidant box, there’s a link, a call out that actually says on the insert, “Please send your feedback.” We ask Twitter, Facebook, et cetera, and we get a ton of feedback every day with people telling us how we could do better, and also we ask what we are doing right so that we know what people do like. We take all that feedback still and we continue to create new products based around it. It’s essentially still very much a core part of our company and in the future that’s something that we are always going to improve too. We want to make it even more transparent.
Felix: You’re saying that involving the community early on in design not only of course helps you create a product that they will enjoy, that they will like and find value in, but it can also push your business in other ways by because of the benefit of it being designed by the community it resonates more with the community [inaudible 00:20:24] purchasing?
Joey: Yeah, I mean it just makes sense. You have the ability to make products, and you have people who want products, and they tell us what they’d like to see, and we work to bank them, and pretty much everybody’s happy.
Felix: That makes sense. Now back to the prototyping, so you guys put together this prototype out of Cheerio boxes, the next step was then to go to someone that, was it another prototyper or was it someone that was actually going to end up manufacturing the notebook? What was the very next step after having your own prototype?
Adam: Yeah, good question. So the next step then was to find someone who could actually make, take it from kind of a slightly rough version into something that looks like we could take pictures of for our Kickstarter campaign. I think Joey, pretty sure Joey found someone here in New York that does really high end kind of one off wedding albums, that sort of thing like a very old school professional bookbinder and it’s expensive. I think we spent two or three hundred bucks for each, we got made two of them prototypes. If you go back to our first Kickstarter campaign for 2013, that’s the book that’s in the video and in all the photos and it looks very, very, very much like the final prototype or final product that we’re selling today.
It’s important to get that step and then you could take that actual prototype that looks 95% or 98% like the final version and then take that to actually get it mass produced.
Felix: Got it. So let’s talk about Kickstarter. You actually have launched, both of you have launched I believe three campaigns, the sketchbook being the first and I think I’m going in the right order, the Squire pen is next and then the minimal backpack, messenger and tote. Success in all of these, you’ve had successfully funded for all of them, blew away the goal for all of them. Let’s start with the first one, so once you had this prototype that’s good enough for the photos for Kickstarter, for the video for Kickstarter, how did you prepare to launch on Kickstarter?
Adam: How do we prepare? It’s a long process. I think most people see successful campaigns, they’re just kind of like, “Oh you know they put it together, it happened quickly.” At least in our case and I believe most people who do fairly successful Kickstarter, it takes I would say four to five months to really do it right, especially your early ones. That prototyping process, talking to the community, getting feedbacks and the actual product design is key. The presentation is also extremely important. One of Joey’s friends from art school was a, and is a filmmaker. Joey how long did we spend getting the script together, getting all the people for that video?
Joey: It started I think five months, the emails and the preparation started all at the same time.
Adam: Right, but I mean actually and then doing the video itself. We wrote a script, multiple drafts of a script and then we had I think six or seven different people in it, different types of [crosstalk 00:23:20].
Joey: Oh, the actual shooting and whatnot?
Joey: I mean yeah, that was probably a couple months process of the script and then actually setting up the different shoots and coordinating. It was quite an orchestrated project.
Felix: When you’re putting together, especially your first Kickstarter campaign, what did you know that you had to include in the video or in the actual copy on the entire description on the page. What did you know that you needed to include to get the right kind of attention and to get this campaign funded?
Joey: I could say so much about this, but I think the real important thing and this is for Kickstarter specifically is, don’t just say what you’re making, but say why you’re making it.
Felix: Okay, say more about that. What’s the difference in your eyes?
Joey: When you say what you’re making you know, “Here’s a notebook. It has 192 pages, it’s 5.4 by 7.7 inches, et cetera.” It’s not that exciting, right? Comes in dot grid, ruled, et cetera, but when that, “I am creating a tool for thinkers to help them change the world because that is something that drives me every day.” That is something that people will respond to and want to support. That’s what Kickstarter is for.
Adam: Yeah, and also the visuals are extremely important in Kickstarter. You have to make sure it’s done right, that’s both the video and the photos, make sure you have nice lifestyle photos, product photos, because without that I think the more investment you put in your Kickstarter page, is the more credible you appear to buyers because if people don’t want to spend much time putting the page together, why should someone buy it?
Then also doing a lot of outreach in advance, both to customers and different blogs, people that’d be interested in it because momentum’s really key on that first day. You really, whatever your goal is, you really want to hit that fairly quickly on day one, two or three max to show. It’s like an upward cycle for, in general, because then more money you raise and you hit your goal, then media tends to pay more attention, blogs large or small, and then Kickstarter pays attention, features you, and then more people see that and then they buy, and then more blogs, et cetera. It’s important to show momentum out of the gate.
Felix: This kind of outreach is building the buzz before the campaign launches. You mentioned that you reached out to customers to PR to two blogs. How did you split you time? If someone had to focus on one or the other, what’s more important? Trying to get those early customers to buy or focusing that time on getting the blog features?
Joey: I don’t think, it’s almost like you can’t really split them. Every element is important. It’s like saying if you wanted to make a good pasta dish, do you throw in the pasta or do you throw in the tomato sauce? If you want to make this right, you need everything, you need the good product, the good outreach, the good presentation. There are no exceptions.
Felix: Got it. So when you are reaching out to customers and reaching out to these blogs, I’m assuming you approached them differently depending if they’re a potential customer or if they’re a blog. Talk to us about how you, I guess you pitch your product to the blogs. How do you pitch your product to blogs when you are gearing up for a crowd funding campaign like on Kickstarter?
Joey: You have to be honest, you have to really care about what you’re making. If you’re just in it for the cash, just quit because people will see through that. Especially the people who would potentially be your biggest backers, the most passionate people about your mission, will see that your mission is devoid of some sort of integrity or something. First of all, you need to be doing something that you believe in and then it’s a very short email that just says, “Hey, this is what I’m doing. If you like it or if you want to know more, let me know.” Sometimes you link to the site or sometimes you send some pictures. It’s just very straightforward, it’s more about quantity rather than any specific formula to make it strike.
Adam: Someone once told me a while ago, the length of your email should be inversely proportional to how well you know them, so if you don’t know someone … Oh no, I’m sorry I got that the wrong way, directly proportional, sorry. If you don’t know someone very well you want it to be a very short email. If you do know someone well, then you can make a longer email.
Felix: I like that. That makes a lot of sense. While you are reaching out to these blogs because they have a content schedule, they have a cue of things to write about, you probably had to reach out to them maybe weeks, maybe months ahead of time before your campaign launches and they agree to say “Hey, we’re interested in this product coming out into your crowd funding campaign.” How do you make that they’re going to write about something or how do you follow up so that they do write about your product or your campaign when the launch day happens?
Joey: Go ahead.
Adam: I was gonna say, so it’s gonna be a total mixed basket of, some people are gonna respond right away, “I love it, keep me up.” Then as you get closer, let them know. Other people you hear nothing. These are the most mysterious, a lot of bigger publications do this in our experience and other people we know where it’s, they won’t even respond to you. Then suddenly, maybe on the third or fourth day of your campaign, you get an email back from them, referencing your email from three months prior, and they have more questions. Or other times, you’ve emailed them four times, never heard a thing and suddenly you get a giant article written about your product. It’s definitely a mix but for sure the more emails you send like Joey said, and the more quantity, heightens your probability of getting coverage.
Felix: Do you remember how many people you ended up reaching out to for that first campaign.
Joey: Wow, I would say thousands. I didn’t stop emailing until the 30 days were up and I spent probably 50% of my days emailing.
Adam: I think there’s a picture of Joey on day number 12 and I think his girlfriend or someone took. Literally, he’s asleep on the bed with his shoes on. That day, it was just like so much stuff going on that he just fell asleep, couldn’t even move.
Felix: That’s hilarious.
Joey: Yeah, I was like face down just completely passed out.
Felix: Passed out. Now the customers then when you started reaching to these people to prepare them for the launch where they just that list of 500 thinkers that you had accumulated or were there other ways that you were getting people that interested in the product prior to the Kickstarter campaign?
Joey: I believe at that time the Kickstarter, the very first Kickstarter launched we had a Twitter going and Facebook page. I can’t remember if we had Instagram, I think we did. Yeah, so it came from the email that we had been sending out, the social media and then we also had a website that introduced the project in a very basic form and had an email sign up for people who’d like to get notified. That was collecting emails for, I don’t know, three months probably.
Adam: Email’s very effective that we found. You definitely want to don’t overlook especially in the very beginning or ever. If you get people sign up because then there are people that want to know and you can let them know, which is higher that they’re willing to take action. Two is definitely friends and family, which we didn’t talk about but it’s key. Make sure you let people know as far in advance as you can just like we talked to the customers months in advance, that you tell your friends and family way in advance. No one likes to be say “Hey.” Someone you haven’t heard from a while on Facebook, you get a message, “Hey, I got a new Kickstarter up, here’s the link. Like donate.” It’s like no one wants to get that email but if someone says, three months in advance, “Hey, we’re coming out with this new thing. What do you think?” And then talks to you again about it, you’re much more likely to back it.
Felix: Right. Keep them kind of involved in the beginning rather than just asking for their money for the first time. The emo marketing aspect of it, were you guys constantly sending out emails during the campaign or was it just on the launch day? What was the emo marketing strategy for reaching out to actual backers or potential backers and potential customers?
Joey: Again this is for the first campaign, The Confidant notebook, we sent an email out a couple days before saying, “Hey, it’s gonna happen on Monday or Tuesday, whatever it was. Then Tuesday we sent an email. I think halfway, we sent another email and then we actually and an email planned for the end but Adam I don’t know if you remember this, we had done so much more that what we asked for that it was kind of hard to send an email that said, ”Hey, come back and give …" You know, pledge more money to a campaign that was already 11 times its goal. So we did not send that last email.
Felix: Yeah, because I see here at least on the first project there is the stretch goal, which you did also hit in just kind of recap the goal, originally, was $15,000, you had a stretch goal of $150,000, ended up closing the campaign at a little bit over $168,000. The stretch goal, what was the thinking behind that because I’ve seen this every once in a while on Kickstarter campaigns, what is a stretch goal and how did you guys use it for your campaign?
Joey: Adam do you want to do that, or do you want me?
Adam: Yeah, go ahead.
Joey: So a stretch goal is essentially an additional goal beyond the original. Kickstarter does not allow you to change your goal once you start, and we do our best to judge the correct goal that we should attain. You know, 50,000, or a hundred, or, in our first case, 15,000 but ultimately we can’t predict what will actually happen and we hit our goal on the first day.
Adam: Yeah, 24, 23 hours in, something like that.
Joey: Yeah. So we had 29 days left and so, a thing that has evolved through the Kickstarter community that’s not official, Kickstarter doesn’t support it in any way and there’s no interface mechanism to do this, you just post it, is the stretch goal where you say, “Hey, we hit our goal, we’ve got time left. Let’s go for 30,000 and we’ll add another color to the selection for example.” So we ended up just doing stretch goals to 150,000 and like you said at that point we were like, “All right, enough is enough. We really did a good job. Let’s start things up on the right foot with our customers as opposed to constantly pushing.”
Felix: Now because someone that has donated already or contributed already to your campaign, can they come back and contribute again? How does that work for the backers point of view?
Adam: You mean for a stretch goal?
Felix: Yeah, I guess if someone already pledged the 50 bucks or whatever, and they want to help achieve that stretch goal, they can come back and contribute more?
Adam: Yeah. Absolutely I mean during Kickstarter, you can change your pledge anytime until the very last minute. Yeah, if you pledged 20 bucks or 50 bucks and you’re like, “Okay, you know what, I want more notebooks. I love this, I want to give them away as gifts.” Whatever the case is, yeah absolutely you can go and change your pledge up.
Felix: Got it. You guys have, of course, had success beyond Kickstarter right, these three campaigns. What’s working today to drive the attention and traffic to the site?
Adam: We do a lot, I mean at this point we’ve been in business for almost four years, three and a half years now. One is we do a lot with bloggers and reviewers so those very active like stationary community online, and at this point we’ve expanded beyond just notebooks, we make our Squire pen, we make the Archer wooden pencil, we make a smaller and larger Confidant notebook, soft cover notebook, the Vanguard, we have a leather case for a notebook, now we’re getting into backpacks. It’s quite a array of things from our humble beginnings when it was just a light gray notebook but there’s quite a review community out there, different bloggers and Instagram, people who like to review. We do end up sending out a lot of sample items that, and there very photogenic, which works in our favor. Yeah, that brings a lot of traffic to the site.
Felix: So vloggers and reviewers. These pieces are like video reviews right?
Adam: It’s a mix I mean some people are mainly Instagram and they take maybe one photo or series of photos now, some people will post Instagram stories, some people will have a traditional kind of WordPress type blog, some people, we have a couple YouTube that do it, they actually take videos on boxing things, so I would say it’s really a mix.
Felix: How do you identify who’s going to be a good fit for you to work with in terms of getting reviews done or having someone featured in one of their videos?
Joey: Generally we just take a look at the content they’re already doing. If you see notebook reviews or pen reviews or other products that relate to what we have, it’s safe to say that you can go ahead and ask. But if you’re just emailing because they have 200,000 subscribers or followers, and they have nothing to do with pens, it’s probably a waste of time.
Felix: Now one of the biggest challenges I think with working with these kind of influencers is that, it might hard to track performance. Did any of you found that to be an issue? How do you identify if the entire campaign, entire program is successful and then how do you identify uniquely within each influencer if they are successfully driving any traffic and ultimately sales to your store?
Adam: Yeah sure, good question. I mean it depends, you can look at your Google Analytics or we’re on Shopify now, you can look at your Shopify dashboard and they attribute to the referral source. You can get a sense of, "Okay, if it’s a specific blog or [inaudible 00:37:42] coming. If it’s coming from Instagram or YouTube, usually it works better if you use like UTM links, which is like an encoded link that let’s you track a lot more parameters so you can see which reviewer it’s coming or which campaign it’s coming from. Those are kind of the best tools, also the more overt things just okay, if they posted a Instagram post did you get 10 likes, did you get a thousand likes, how much publicity did the actual post get?
Felix: Got it. So when you’re working with these bloggers and reviewers you are coordinating with them to make sure that they are using your Google Analytics, UTM parameters so that you can track?
Adam: Yeah, different campaigns, it always varies by campaign but yeah if we want the most accurate tracking then we say “Okay, here if you want to post a link, post this link.”
Felix: Got it. I think one of you had mentioned early on about how you now have a larger team than you used to. You guys have employees now. What kind of tools or technology or applications do you rely on whether they’d be on Shopify or outside Shopify to help run the business?
Adam: Joey, you want to answer that?
Joey: Yeah, sure. First of all, Shopify is great at keeping our inventory and products all together in one place and giving our team the right visibility for that stuff, which is fantastic and then outside of Shopify, we use Stitch, which tracks our inventory, ShipStation kind of takes the orders from Shopify and gets them where they need to be in order for them to get sent but then you have more connected to the user stuff, which MailChimp is absolutely fantastic. We use them for all of email campaigns. Its well designed, simple platform that helps you create your campaign pretty quickly. Wow, I sound like an advertisement [crosstalk 00:39:33].
Adam: Yeah I was gonna say. I was like wow, [inaudible 00:39:35] podcast advertisement?
Joey: Yeah, right?
Felix: Snuck that one in.
Joey: MailChimp is great. There’s social media platforms, of course, that are free to communicate with your customers and then you have to pay for advertising and whatnot. My personal favorite piece of software that we use as a team is Slak, which most of you know by now but if you don’t Slak is essentially like a chatroom for your work, you set up chatroom and you could chat each other Slak and it’s like texting but just for your company essentially.
Adam: We have not been encouraged to say this, but definitely Shopify is great for us. I mean we’ve been on Shopify since I think August of 2014 and it just works with everything. There’s all these app plugins like all the things Joey just mentioned, they integrate well. It’s everywhere, we have the mobile app, there’s Apple Pay for our mobile website, and they’re constantly adding features. It helps us to focus on the presentation of our website and our branding. When it comes to the core technology of, “Okay, making sure secure transactions and do we have a way to view our orders and all these things.” It’s all of the stuff that we don’t have to worry about. Let’s us focus on what we’re really good at doing.
Felix: One of the key challenges that I hear often from especially new companies is around repeat purchases, customer retention, the good thing about what you guys have going on is that you have different products of course, and these are all products that are heavily targeted at the customers that you’ve built already, and then of course the things like the notebook, people are gonna need new notebooks as they start using the ones that they have, but other than just because the products inherently are good for repeat purchases, what do you guys do to encourage people to come back, check out the website, check out the new products and potentially buy a product they’ve already purchased in the past?
Joey: I don’t think there’s any magic bullet, I think it’s to continue to create a quality brand and quality products. If someone buys our notebook, and they like it, and we release the pen, there’s a high chance that they’ll check that out. Then it brings customers back. Then we have some email automation, very basic stuff. If you buy a notebook, in a few months, it’ll just say, “Hey, do you need another one?” We sort of do that on all of our consumable products but there’s no one magic bullet. It’s just a smart collection of small things that each incrementally add to bring people back.
Adam: Right, I mean, helping to encourage people to follow us on Instagram, which then if we have a new release or, we post a lot of things of our different customers, they draw something cool in their notebook, then we’ll post it on our Instagram. Seeing that, being on our email list, getting a notification that there’s something new out, it’s just a combination like Joey said, it’s not any one magical thing.
Felix: Got it. Makes sense. Thank you so much for your time Adam and Joey. Baronfig.com, B-A-R-O-N-F-I-G.com is the website. What do you guys have planned for the next year? What can we look out for in terms of in what you guys got going on at Baron Fig?
Adam: That’s a great question, I mean I will say, we’re very active at Baron Fig, we got a lot going on and if the past things we’ve come out with are any indication of it. I don’t know, Joey, what’s our next thing coming out there [crosstalk 00:42:54]?
Joey: Well, you know that we can’t say what’s coming because that would just ruin the surprise but there is a product coming out this fall, this holiday season I guess, that is one of the most exciting products that I’ve had the pleasure to work on since we started.
Felix: Awesome, so that’s something [inaudible 00:43:15] looks forward to. Do you guys always plan to launch things through Kickstarter? I know that there’s three campaigns that have launched through here. Is that somewhere people should pay attention to in terms of things that you are releasing? What’s the best way for listeners to stay up to date on what you guys got going on?
Adam: Yeah good question, I mean the best way, follow us on Instagram @baronfig, I mean go to our website, sign up for our email list, we send out, we definitely are very careful not to send out too many emails, we learned that lesson early on, when we send out emails, we really have something to say, so we’ll only we send you one if we have something to say. That’s it. We might be on Kickstarter again at some point, we’ll see how everything goes but we do release a lot directly on our website.
Felix: Awesome, so baronfig.com again, B-A-R-O-N-F-I-G.com. Thank you again so much for your time Adam and Joey.
Adam: Thanks for [crosstalk 00:44:04] us on.
Joey: Thank you so much man.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peak for what’s in store the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 4: I don’t want to just jump on to a market if it’s not the right fit for the brand. You got to be real.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters the eCommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial. Also for this episode’s show notes head to shopify.com/blog.