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The $0 Ad Budget:
How they Grew their Business without a Single Advertising
On paper Mandie is very similar to Aubrey.
They both work full-time, and manage the duties of being a parent, calling Utah home. And you’d probably mistake them for sisters, with their matching blonde hair.
As I talk with them their differences are starting to emerge. Mandie, a self-confessed online shopping addict with plenty of energy to burn, is talkative and bubbly. Aubrey is much more reserved. I can see her listening to my questions attentively and she answers me with careful, thorough responses. Or as Mandie puts it, “She’s really responsible.”
Yet they appear to balance one another out in the manner of all great partnerships. The dynamics they’ve noticed have helped them hustle and quickly develop their company. Their success was swift. They’ve made more than $100,000 in sales in the six months since their ecommerce store launched in April 2018.
And of all, most unbelievable?
They didn’t spend a dime on ads.
So what’s the secret to its success? Let’s work it out.
Note from the Editor: FYI, we have decided not to disclose the name of Mandie and Aubrey’s company to shield them from extra competition. You will find a thorough overview on the goods they are offering and how they retain their clients.
Hey, I Think There’s Something in This!
Mandie enjoys e-shopping online. That is an real reality. She would happily spend hours browsing online shops, searching for fun new kitchen items, beauty products and children’s toys.
She was surprised by the range and low cost of the products when she first discovered the online marketplace AliExpress, which lists hundreds of thousands of items from Chinese producers and suppliers. Not many people from the US know the forum, and she sensed an opening.
It was completely fine. She will do what she does best (online shopping) and search for new and interesting items on the website. She will then resell them back to an audience in the US, boosting the prices a little to make a slight profit.
She could sense the opportunity to make this idea a little side-hustle, a nice way to fulfil her cravings for online shopping, spend her spare time, and make some extra money on the side.
She wanted to create a Facebook community where she would sell the items to a small circle of individuals. Facebook was already home to so many different people buying and selling, and she’d already spend so much time there. Simply made sense.
Though she was optimistic the idea would succeed, Mandie knew she wasn’t risking to go it alone. To help handle the workload, she needed a business partner to help drive her through those “Can’t I just take a nap instead?!”Instants.
Their Relationship Beginning
Mandie and Aubrey of course knew each other. But you were not going to suggest they were friends.
“We had known each other a little,” Mandie says. “But I just knew this girl knows what she’s talking about, she knows what she’s doing and I need to get her on my side.”
Mandie started to “court” Aubrey, trying to get her on board with the idea.
At first Aubrey was tentative, unsure if there was anyone interested in buying and worried they would end up pouring a lot of money into the project without any return. But as Mandie spoke to her about the theory, it got more and more meaning.
Mandie recalls the joy of the day she asked Aubrey to join in. “Earlier that day I went home from her house and told my husband, ‘She said yes! Aubrey is inside! ‘And he was like,’ Okay, so now it’s really happening!
Stage I: The Facebook Group
The idea behind the group had been plain. Every week Mandie would spend time on AliExpress searching for items she felt the Facebook community needed. She would find one or two, add a small markup to the item and post about it every Tuesday in her party, encouraging people to place a pre-order of the items.
At first the idea was to sell locally to people they knew, to other friends and moms. People would put their order inside the community and Mandie and Aubrey would record their order in a spreadsheet. They would put the orders in bulk with their supplier, and have the products delivered to their house where they would be picked up by people. It was, really, a easy method, and it meant they were able to establish a personal relationship with so many of their clients.
The community had evolved steadily, by word of mouth, so far. Friends would be adding mates, and some would be applying to join after someone had heard it listed. They planned to hold a giveaway in December.
The concept behind the givingaway was simple – you could add your friends to the community and win some free stuff. Facilities. They kicked things off and watched as requests for members began to trickle in. The trickle quickly turned to a flood.
At the end of the promotion, the party had swelled from 2,000 to over 8,000 participants. It was a roaring success with $15 worth of free stuff they gave away.
But, the giveaway’s popularity came at an expense.
“The party really really really erupted out of control and suddenly,” Aubrey remembers. “We just sat there like, ‘Oh my gosh. For this one thing, we have 300 orders.’ “
Mandie and Aubrey manually complied with each of those instructions. They’d copy the customer’s address and order information over to a spreadsheet, then dig through their PayPal receipts trying to line up the payment confirmation. They will take hours and hours of work to process the orders for each new product.
Aubrey recalls how exhausting it felt for them both.
“I do have a full-time job, she has a full-time job. We both have children. It was like, we love the performance, but this is taking so much time. We just don’t have the time to be doing this. We don’t want to be up until two in the morning every single night at the end of the workday, working too hard for brainless work.
“With how much time we put into it we made two to three dollars an hour, and it was getting unattractive,” Mandie continues.
The pair had been trying to find a solution. They knew they were on to positive – after all, their issue was coping with so many sales instead of zero – but for a long time they couldn’t continue like that.
How will this be fixed?
Mandie was thinking about ways to streamline their buying process. Their manual method was a cightmare to deal with, so she was searching for a way to obtain information of payment and distribution at once.
The creation of a simple online store seemed like a step in the right direction. With the store, she’d be able to receive customer orders and payments concurrently and at the same location. Fortunately this meant the end of their spreadsheets!
She started developing her store Shopify. She came across Oberlo as she browsed through the app store, a platform for sourcing items to sell from suppliers.
Oberlo will help her find new items that can sell and manage the link between her online marketplace and the inventory of the supplier. Oberlo will automate the ordering process until a customer ordered a product from its store. It will automatically fill in the order and address information of a customer, and give them to the supplier. The supplier will plan to send the item directly to the door of their client.
“I remember setting up my store with Oberlo the very first night after watching a webinar,” Mandie says. “I watched all the instructional videos and was reading through all Oberlo’s pages until around 3 o’clock in the morning because I was like, ‘This is what we’ve been waiting for! This is great! Mandie sold out.
She knew how much time she would be able to save them. Finally, they would be free from the late evenings spent manually executing orders but now, Aubrey has had to be persuaded.
“It all seemed really confusing when she first explained it to me,” Aubrey says.
“I figured we weren’t going to have influence over how the ordering works, and we won’t be able to verify it all. It sounded like a cauchemar.’ Mandie, however, continued.
She knew that she wanted to prove to Aubrey that it would make their lives easier, not harder. She sat down, and walked the process to her. “I’ve told her all you have to do is import a product into your shop, change the name and description a little bit, select what pictures you want, and if anyone orders it, that’s what you’re doing …” Mandie says.
She then clicked on the “Service Order” button.
“We’ve seen it go to the AliExpress website, pick your options and start filling out the address. Her eyes just widened and widened. Aubrey recalls the moment, shocked at how simple it seemed as opposed to their grueling process of spreadsheets.
“They were just what we wanted. We have spoken about how we needed more volume and less time, so many times. To be able to invest in more goods, and less time.
Stage II: More Products. Less Time. More Sales.
With less time spent on the hard work of order fulfilment, they now had the freedom to begin to think about how to grow their company.
They found that their party consisted almost entirely of females from the United States, aged between 21 and 39. That put both Aubrey and Mandie smack bang right in the middle of their demographic target.
When Mandie was trying to market new goods, she would ask herself, “Would that be beneficial to someone like me? And so the aim now was to fill the store with six new items per week that could thrill their group.
By searching more for household things such as kitchen gadgets and organizing goods, they’ve narrowed their attention.
They also check out unique beauty items, as well as children’s toys and clothes. To find them, they scour suppliers’ top-selling goods, looking for trendy products.
“In truth, I really enjoy that aspect of business, the sourcing of goods. For me, that is a nice thing, “Mandie says. They find the six new items for their store every week on Monday, and hype them into the Facebook community.
The community’s vibe is optimistic and welcoming, and people are excited about jumping on posts to comment on and add their mates.
The goods go live on Tuesday. Sales continue to pour in throughout the course of the week before slowing down to a trickle on Sunday night, when the items are eliminated. They will put a bulk order of the goods with their suppliers, after all the sales from that week are in. The whole process starts again Monday.
Every week is a new round of testing of the product. They get to hear a bit more about the kinds of items that their culture wants, and which they don’t. If a product sells well, they will keep it on sale for the next few weeks so that more consumers can have a chance to purchase.
But if the bombs of the commodity and no one buys there, it’s no big loss. They have not spent any money on buying the product inventory or promoting it with any money, so they take care of it and move on. Here no heartbreak.
This takes us to one of the stories most fascinating pieces.
Mandie and Aubrey didn’t spend any money on ads.
“We’ve never spent the money at all on ads,” Mandie says. “We’ve never done one ad for Google or one ad for Facebook, never.”
But while the rest of us think about targeting Facebook and reporting figures on ad spend, they’re making money without any marketing costs. But how can you?
The Power of Community
Aubrey and Mandie have created an ecommerce proprietors’ dream scenario.
They have a group of over 8,500 people who are keen on hearing about their new goods and excited about buying them. These customers trust the product reviews of Aubrey and Mandie and will buy from them time and time again.
“Our repeat customers are between 40 and 50 per cent per week. We have some people where we already know their name and we are like, “Oh love her, she buys something every week,” Mandie says.
But it just didn’t happen by chance. They’ve been building up a sense of confidence with their Facebook community for a long time. They take the relationship seriously between themselves and their customers, and are working hard to retain it.
One of the steps they take to help develop that trust is to test each product themselves before selling it to their customers. For their supplier they will order the product and send it to themselves so they can take a look at it in real life and test it for consistency.
Parcels of new items come up for evaluation each week on Mandie’s doorstep. “That’s my favorite part because I hate my mailman,” she laughs.
Some items don’t make the cut, and they have a massive collection of rejects that never made it for sale on the shelf.
They can even take more pictures to show off how they work until they have the items in their hands. They will also be doing live Facebook videos showing how the items work.
Aubrey believes this is key to establishing trust with its audience. “That’s how we can tell, here’s the thing, here’s me keeping it, and here’s me using it. Ok, I know that works. But customers know we’re selling not just cheap junk that may look nice in the photos, but it’s not good quality. Trust is really very high in our community.
Mandie put her pearly whites on display to help show off one of their new items, charcoal tooth whitening powder.
“People saw the posts, and they would think, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re using this whitening powder for the charcoal tooth! And are those your teeth?! ‘And I’m like, I swear, yea! This is my face, and my teeth here! “She said.
“One of the positive reviews we get from our clients is that they know they’re getting better goods because we’re using them ourselves,” Aubrey says.
What makes the big business partners for them?
Although at the beginning the two women had some doubts about how they would balance the work between them, it turned out to be better than they could have expected.
“Not before has there been a problem with us feeling like the other person does better, or we don’t do enough. We we both just enjoy it so much that we work on it whenever we can, “Mandie says.
“This sort of fell into us both organically doing the business side we ‘re more comfortable with. Mandie enjoys doing product analysis and she sends me endless pictures of new products. I handle things like our stats checking, and almost all of our customer service, “Aubrey says.
When asked to contemplate what makes them such perfect friends, they begin to reel off the other’s great qualities.
“She transforms ideas into an organization,” Mandie says.
“Und she’s got the ideas,” Aubrey says.
“Without the other none of us would be as good,” concludes Mandie.
The benefits of getting a business partner, Mandie says, are not only about sharing the workload, it also lets her get more done. “I want to do better, because I have a girlfriend. I just want to go to bed sometimes and I would think, ‘No, what does Aubrey want me to do? She would like to see me follow these instructions. I owe him it. I’m going to do it.’ And then it holds me to account.”
The two are close friends now, and look forward to spending time hanging out and working together on the business. “We were watching Netflix together right before we got on this call, and I had my screen and I’m keeping it up, and I’d stop doing a product review every now and then. It is really fun, “Mandie says.
Now the company has found their groove, they’re thinking about where to go next. They have plans to expand their company, to reach an audience beyond their Facebook community. In fact, everything feels possible with such a strong partnership.
Its fine now, the dust has settled, and we’re in a very nice place. So what now?