Arlen: Welcome to the eCommerce marketing podcast, everyone, I am your host Arlen Robinson, and today we have a very special guest, Rory F. Stern has been a best-kept secret working behind the scenes to help build, grow, and scale many successful online companies for the last 14 years. For the first 8 years, he worked mainly as a sophisticated jack of all trades plugging holes where his clients needed his services. Today, he manages a small boutique media buying team that specializes in multi-channel traffic. He is best known for creating ads that convert and being able to get a lot of policy challenged offers approved and running on Facebook.

Rory: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. 

Arlen: Yes, not a problem, man. I’m super excited to talk to you today. Our topic for the day is going to be creating an online E commerce online ad strategy because these days it’s something that. Not a lot of people, especially on the eCommerce side, really know where to go.

A lot of times people are kind of guessing at what to do. I know a lot of companies work with agencies, but there’s a lot of people in between that aren’t at the point where they can outsource to an agency, but you know, want to be able to manage things on their own. So I’m super excited to talk to you about that.

And, uh, you know, some of the things that you’ve learned being in the trenches, but before we get into all of that. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and specifically how you got into what you’re doing today. 

Rory: You kind of hit all the high points with that introduction. So, you know, 14 years, eight of which was a sophisticated Jack of all trades, and I realized that one of the most sought after skills, one of the most important skills really for any business is traffic.

And I think it was, I first heard it from rich Schefren probably. 10 plus years ago that you don’t really have a business until you can go out and pay to acquire customers. Because with paid acquisition, it’s typically a lot more scalable, predictable. You’ve got a little bit more control over it, and I, I use the word control and bunny ears because.

There’s not a lot of things you really do control with any aspect of customer acquisition, and we can talk about that if you want. It was just a skill that seems so important to growing a business. So that was really something I wanted to figure out and I kind of fell into it backwards. The friend I was connected to on Facebook put out a post, I want to say like six years ago at this point, who said, Hey, I’m looking for a copywriter for my agency.

We’re really starting to grow. You don’t need to know anything about running Facebook ads. You don’t necessarily need to know anything about copy. I’m going to train you and one thing you’ve got to know about me, Arlen, is I’m playful. I’m fun, I’m sarcastic. I don’t know what I said to this guy, but he hit me up in a messenger right away and was like.

I don’t know if you’re kidding or you’re being sarcastic, but if you want, let’s hop on a call and talk. And before you know it, I was his copywriter and fell in love with ads. Right. 

Arlen: That’s awesome. Yeah, so you just kinda just basically dove right into it. 

Rory: I was thrown into the deep end, which honestly, I think.

Is one of the best ways to learn. Unfortunately, with paid traffic, it can be very expensive, but it is a great way to learn. 

Arlen: It definitely is, and I always tell people all the time, as far as paid traffic is concerned, a lot of times businesses are concerned about proper messaging. What’s going to resonate with certain audiences in the best way to really kind of find that out in a, in a short amount of time.

This is through paid advertising and the studying of analytics. And choosing specific demographics. Uh, it’s really, before all of this, before this whole world of online ads and pay per click advertising, a lot of it was a guessing game really. You know, you had to, you could of course, base decisions on past experiences, but if you’re kind of a new business, maybe even a startup, you don’t have a lot to go on.

So you were kind of guessing as far as what you were doing for advertising. 

Rory: Yeah, absolutely. 

Arlen: So you know, since majority of the listeners of course, are eCommerce businesses or e-commerce marketers see somebody you know related to that particular field, what do you think is one of the, one of the first things that these types of businesses need to do when they’re just considering an online ad strategy?

Rory: I think a lot of it is just getting really clear on why are you getting involved with online advertising right now? And what I mean by that, I mean, you know, I think it’s easy to take for granted that, well, yeah, I want to get into paid ads because I want to acquire customers. Awesome. But you want to acquire customers.

At what dot, dot. Dot. And you know, I think at this point in where we’re at with eCommerce and digital marketing is that there are a lot of people in the world who think, yes, I can run ads. It’s easy to run ads. There’s all sorts of courses and training, running ads as almost become very, very diluted as a skill.

And what I encourage people to do is really figure out, number one, where are you with your business? Do you have an established brand? If so, awesome. What are your metrics? What can you afford to spend to acquire a new customer? That’s a very important part. We should talk about customer acquisition, and the reason I say that is a lot of people in the digital space anyway, think how much profit can I make from running ads?

And that’s what I mean by I want to run ads so I, dot is it so that you can build a real business. And I distinguish that because to me, building a real business, using paid ads, is to acquire customers. You should have a backend that increases your lifetime value of a customer. How do we get to the back end?

Well, it can be through upsells. It can be through email marketing, it can be through retargeting. But if your sole approach is. Can I spend $1 and make a $1 on ads and make five back? Typically, not always, but typically you don’t have a business. You have a product, you have an offer and products and offers have shelf life.

A business. Has scalability and longevity for the most part. You know, you can run things for awhile. So that’s really the big thing I want people to understand is that paid ads is not about, can I put $1 in and get $2 out? Like that’s, that’s the sizzle. That’s what really people, you know, that’s what people want to hear.

That’s what people are selling. So it’s a good. Match in terms of this is what the audience wants to hear. Let me tell them this message. But when you start to work on ads, when you work with an agency in particular, and I’ll explain what I mean by that. It quickly becomes a very, very complicated, frustrating situation because that’s just not how it works.

Arlen: Yeah. I think, like you said, a lot of businesses are probably attracted by the whole sizzle, that putting in $1, getting out five, and you know, of course the RRI is a whole part of it, and like you said, if you have an offer, you just have a particular product, you’re looking to do something, you know, one time, yeah, you can do it.

Maybe it’s an event you’re trying to. Advertise it. It’s a onetime thing and that’s it. It’s one and done. You don’t have to do anything else with these customers after this event, then yeah, you can kind of treat it like that. But in your case, like you saying, as far as a business is concerned that wants to have longevity, it’s, there’s a lot more that comes into this and with regards to the different platforms, of course that are out there, anybody that’s thinking about advertising.

Probably when they thinking, right. If they can probably probably have a headache these days, just because there’s so many channels that exist. How does an eCommerce business actually determine and find the right channel that they’re going to create these ads for and that they’re gonna kind of build a business around.

Rory: Sure. I think given the state of ad platforms right now, I think in terms of, you know, paid traffic, where do you start? Facebook still really is the 800 pound gorilla. They are sort of where you can quickly and easily launch ads. And get data back fast. So let me be clear on a point here. If you’re just starting out, this is forget $1 in, $1 out, $1 in, $2 out.

Your goal is to buy data. Your goal is to figure out, if I’ve got a $50 product and my costs are X, leaving me with Y profit or Y margin, how much is it going to cost for me to acquire that customer. And can I do it in a way that the numbers make sense? And Facebook allows for that. Facebook allows for that because it’s a really user friendly self service platform where anyone can go into the ad platform, target people.

Get a message written up and connect with an audience and the data will spit back out for you. Now, I’m not suggesting all of this is easy. In fact, I’m the opposite of what most people say with, Oh, Facebook ads are easy. They’re, they’re not easy. There’s a lot of nuances to it, but the reality is when it comes down to the various ad networks, it is the easiest one to deploy and get data back fast and data that is consistent and reliable.

I also really, really love for. ECommerce platforms to be involved with Google ads. Specifically, if we break down Google ads, there’s now search, which was popularly known as PPC. There’s Google display network, which has banner ads. There is Google shopping, which screen seems econ commerce, and then there are YouTube ads.

So to contrast to Facebook ads, Google is a lot more sophisticated of a platform. It takes a little bit longer to. Test and tweak and certainly to learn their interface and how to bid. And there’s a lot that goes into it. In fact, I don’t do Google ads for our clients. I have a specific team that handles our Google ads because it requires discipline and knowledge and.

In my opinion and you know, years of experience. So those of you who are out there listening and thinking, all right, how do I do this? What I would recommend is you start on Facebook. If you’re going to be on Google ads, you want to look at search. And the easiest, most dead simple, no brainer campaign for any e-commerce business is going to be a brand search campaign.

So the reason I bring this up, Arlyn is that user trust on the internet. Has never really been super high, but it’s certainly at a low because of all the fallout from privacy and security breaches, Cambridge, analytical, all that stuff. So a lot of times what happens is, and we even heard this from veterans in the infomercial space, a lot of people, especially your older demographic, who is suspicious of technology.

They won’t order from your website. They won’t order from the infomercial. They go to Google who they trust, and they type in your company, your brand name, your product name, and they look for, where do you rank in Google? If you’re on that first page, if there’s, if there’s praise on your product, they’ll buy through that.

So a brand term, let’s say your Snuggie. You go to Google, you’re not going to order off the infomercial. You’re not going to order off a Facebook ads. You’re going to go to Google, you’re going to type in Snuggie. One of the first ads that’s going to come back from Snuggie should be from the company itself.

Amazon is likely targeting it as well, so it might siphon some traffic off to Amazon, but I’m really only wanting to demonstrate or really illustrate for you the importance of hand have having a brand. Keyword term campaign set up. 

Arlen: Yeah, I understand. Because like you said, nine times out of 10 people that, let’s say they saw the Snuggie brand.

Via a Facebook ad. There is always a bit of skepticism. I think most people have, especially in all of these different networks. They may look at it, they’re like, okay, that looks cool. I think it’s going to pull up Google. Let me just take a look at these guys, and then they type it in and see what comes up.

So I think you’re, you’re 100% right on that just because of the current climate of the way things are these days. People always a little bit leery about certain ads and they’re going to want to do some deep due diligence, especially if it’s a brand. That they’re not familiar with, so that, that makes a lot of sense as far as making sure you have a.

I brand search and you come up for those, all of those specific brand search keywords. Because of course if you own the brand, you’re the one that should dominate that. Or if you don’t, there’s definitely a problem and you probably want to get those things together before you really get out there and start doing your advertising cause otherwise it’s dudes basically be like you’re throwing money away.

If, if somebody else is kind of taking advantage of those, those brand terms that you have. Now as far as structuring these ads specifically, let’s say with Facebook, what does it take and what do we got? What are some things that have to go into the ad copy, the graphics? Is it something that somebody can just kind of do on the fly themselves as a business owner, or do they need to engage like a graphic designer, content writer, anything like 

Rory: that?

Yeah. So I think when you’re just starting out, and certainly even for a sophisticated business owner or marketer, e-commerce store owner, you can create your own ads. You don’t have to hire someone. There are reasons to hire people, but what you really want to think about, and this is such a great question because we see so many people do this wrong.

When you’re creating your images or videos, and because we’re talking e-commerce, I do want to stress the importance of something here. Your product. Needs to be demonstrable. You need to be able to show your product being used. One great way to do that, of course, is through video. You know, you think about infomercials and, uh, the great late pitchman Billy Mays, he always said, you know, if you can make your product a monster bubble, if you can show them what’s great about it, that’s all you really need.

Show what it can do, right? So we really encourage people. Show your product off, whether it’s an image, certainly in a video there’s some basic concepts, right? Let’s give some examples. Let’s give some real value here. I really like unboxing videos, so current customers opening it up, showing it off, even if it’s a business owner themselves, opening it up, walking through, educating.

Here’s how it works. Here’s the feature. Here’s the benefit. Here’s the feature. Here’s the benefit. Facebook, like short. So we’ll talk Facebook for a minute. Facebook likes short, 15 second videos. So again, you don’t have to go completely all out. It doesn’t have to be professional. Certainly professional can help.

When you think of brands like purple mattress. What else did the Harmon brothers work on? I’m trying to think of a poo Pourri like you think about the, the demonstrably what can you show people if you’re using images, because yes, you can, and I encourage people when you’re starting, don’t go crazy trying to come up with an out of the box video.

Start with an image showing your product. You can certainly highlight the product. Show it. We like to use backgrounds that either show the outcome of the product. So let’s say it’s a sleep product or like maybe an essential oil or a diffuser for an essential oil company, the spotlight of the image should be the product, but in the background it should be somebody getting a restful night’s sleep or being calm, being relaxed that way.

The viewer of that ad is able to project their problem, their pain into that. They can see themselves in the creative. 

Arlen: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And I think nowadays more than ever is because Facebook, let’s be honest. It’s, I would say 80 to 90% video as far as either user generated content, brand generated content, you name it.

It’s a lot of video these days, and so you’ve got to jump in there and be within the mix of all of this video content. It’s because that’s what people are looking to see. They’re scrolling through anyone else, what they’re expecting to see. And so yeah, the monster bowl. Types of videos. I think you’re right, are definitely weren’t great when people can see themselves with that particular product and, and really see what it can do in just that brief snippet of time.

So yeah, that is for sure. 

Rory: I do want to, if I can just interject one other thing I want to make sure people take away, cause you’re right, video is hot right now, but I want to underscore, you can. And this is something we proved day in and day out. Managing campaigns for our clients. You can be competitive, you can make sales using images.

It’s really all about how you structure and stack. That creative video allows you to take it to the next level. So I don’t want to undercut what you’re saying. You hit the nail on the head. I just want to make sure everybody listening understands that. The way we look at things is an image is something you can put together quickly.

You can outsource it. It doesn’t cost a lot. Video. It tends to take people a little bit longer. There’s production, so get yourself out there and an image really can still perform and get you great results. 

Arlen: Yeah, for sure. You know, now, let’s say the business has gone through the process. They either go through creating, let’s say a Facebook ad, whether it’s a image based ad or video ad.

And they’re, you know, they’re at the point where they need to kind of determine the appropriate budget for this particular ed. You know, for someone new to it, where do they even start and how do they determine the right budget that’s going to give them the best ROI? 

Rory: Fantastic question. And there’s not always a right answer, or I shouldn’t say that.

There’s not always a perfect answer, right? Because various products cost various amounts of money. And you know, some people are willing to spend more while others are trying to spend less. So let’s talk about how we approach it. This is, this will be the best answer I can give you in any given situation.

We typically ask our clients to come to us with a minimum of $150 a day in ad spend specific to Facebook. Why $150 a day? Typically with $150 a day, we can get baseline metrics. In terms of the data, the KPI, the key performance indicators, and that’s really the hard part, Arlen, that we can’t cover on a call like this unfortunately, but it’s not so much about being able to run the ads or know what budget to spend.

It’s really how do we interpret the data we get. So you’re looking at that. The first question you want to ask is how much is my product? Right? How much is the price point? So if it’s an established product, and let’s say you’re used to spending $50 to make that front end sale, well typically you’re going to spend, you’re going to want to spend a hundred to $150 per ad set or per ad.

To find out, can we get that sale at 50 why two or three times the budget? Well, you’ve got to give Facebook the algorithm if you will, time to optimize time to go out and find that customer. So imagine if you get your first customer at say, $75 and then your second one at $85 because the algorithm has now learned.

Right? Well, that net average of acquisition is below $50 but if you shut it off at $50 you don’t know would we have gotten at 51 52 53 54 so typically you’re looking to spend two to three times. What your target CPA is, your cost per sale. Now again, we’re going to back up a bit because people in the audience may go, well, wait a minute.

My product costs $1,000 to sell. I’m not going to spend two to $3,000. To see if I can make $1,000 sale. I’ll go out of business very fast. And you’re right. So again, it’s not necessarily about spending all of it. It’s about looking at the numbers, looking at the data. So what do we know about e-commerce, right?

Well, we’ve got to drive traffic to our website, and how do we measure the quality of our traffic? Well, we obviously look at what’s our cost per click, which. Full transparency, total vanity metric. I’ll pay $20 a click if it leads to a $50 sale versus a dollar a click for $75 sale. But the reality is if your cost per click is lower, you should be then seeing.

Initiate checkouts or add to carts, add to carts. You see the closer you’re getting to a purchase. Right. Does that make sense? 

Arlen: Yeah, definitely. I see what you’re saying. A lot of it, it really is going to depend on your price points, the price of your products, because like you said, those higher ticket items.

You’re the rate it was. People are putting items into a cart are definitely going to be lower because there’s more due diligence somebody probably has to do in order to make that decision, you know, of $100 product versus $1,000 product. They not going to be as quick to just jump on your site. Read a couple of features, pop that into the cart versus a, you know, a less expensive product where somebody that may be new to your brand, it feels comfortable enough to just go ahead and take that risk because, you know, they’re not going to lose their shirt over a purchase if it does go South.

So I totally understand that. And as far as, you know, the budgeting is concerned, I know there’s of course things within Facebook that you can, you know, set to, you know, you’ve mentioned the 150, uh. A day as a kind of a baseline. When does a business know. When to increase that? Is that just strictly based on their, you know, on their sales returns that they’re getting, or is there something that would trigger an increase?

Rory: Yeah. Typically we’re looking at, first off, what does it cost us to get our first sale? What does it cost us to get our second sale? What does it cost us to get our third sale? As you start to see more sales come in, it starts to. Even out, it’s the wrong word, but when you start to establish a trend of, this is my cost per sale, and you then have to ask yourself.

Can I sustainably grow as a business by acquiring customers at this number? Right? So honestly, if we loop back to, you know, what should they first do when considering an online ad strategy is you have to figure out your data points are your numbers, what can you spend to acquire a customer? And then it really just becomes about knowing your numbers, reading the data, and going.

If I pay $50 to acquire a customer. Does that keep me in business? Does that offset my cost of goods plus shipping? And then you just start to scale as long as your cost remains at that CPA or below. 

Arlen: Yeah, so it’s definitely the type of thing where you can’t just set it and forget it. You’ve got to closely monitor the activity in the data because otherwise it’s really would just be your waste if you’re not looking at those particular metrics.

You’re not going to know what to do and when to do it. So I totally, I appreciate that, you know, and as we get ready to wrap things up, I’m always curious to pick a experts brains such as yourself about what they think about, you know, coming changes and, you know, of course our listeners can, can take, um, you know, your opinion with a grain of salt, but, um, it’s really up to you.

I’m always curious to what you think about recent changes that. Google is made, Facebook is made with respect to how online ads are presented. Are there certain things that listeners should be aware of or that you see coming kind of down the pipe? 

Rory: Yeah, so I think there’s two really important things here.

Number one has to do with platform changes, but also has to do with just growth, general business development and change. And that has to do with. A lot of people are always asking the question, how can I get my ad costs down? How can I get my ad costs down? And I want to encourage people and challenge people?

Forget that question and start thinking, how can I increase my average order value? How can I increase the lifetime value of my customer? Not that there’s anything wrong with trying to figure out how to reduce costs. But remember at the beginning when I talked about you can only control so much. Well, you can’t control the cost of the ad networks.

And one thing is always certain costs for the ad. Networks are always going up, up, up, up and up. So try, if you’re trying to get cheaper to play the game, you’re not going to be able to play it very long. But if you look at how do I make more. You’re going to win the game. So that’s kind of like a bonus.

That doesn’t necessarily directly answer your question. So I do want to include this biggest change that we’re going to be seeing is with all this privacy and security that I mentioned, Cambridge, analytical and other breaches of data that the ad networks, the browsers, big data. Are all starting to find ways to do away with cookies.

So retargeting is going to be greatly impacted on how you can retarget people, what you can retarget to them. In fact, Google has already done away with any type of retargeting for health supplements. Because it sort of infringes on HIPAA. So if you’re familiar with the medical world, like it’s, you know too much about somebody, if you can serve them an ad that’s like, Hey, we know you have X, Y, and Z by our product.

So retargeting is going to become more and more difficult, if not unfortunately, fairly impossible with ads. In the coming years. 

Arlen: Okay, great. Well, yeah, I appreciate that. I appreciate the bonus, that bonus info and then what you talked about as far as the retargeting, and I, I can see that actually coming myself.

I mean these days we see it now across every site, the whole disclosure of the cookies that’s been implemented and kind of across the board, we can already kind of see where everything is going. So yeah, that really makes sense. So you do have to be, be mindful of everything that’s going on. Well. Yeah, definitely appreciate you coming on, Rory, and sharing everything with us.

I hadn’t really dug that deep into online marketing and ad strategies before. So this has been a great addition to our podcast. But before I let you go, you know, I always like to switch gears here to so our audience can get to know you just a little bit better. So what is a one closing fun fact that you’d like to share with us that our audience may or may not be surprised to know about you.

Rory: Probably surprised. So I am a, an accidental entrepreneur. I actually have a doctorate in clinical psychology and switched gears to become a stay at home. Dad raised three of my kids and fell into marketing as a way to keep my mind busy. 

Arlen: Okay. Okay. Gotcha. That’s awesome. So you just kind of slipped into it though.

Okay. Clinical psychology into online marketing. Okay, that’s great. Well, yeah, and that’s one Testament to the fact that the internet has really just opened up so many avenues for anyone, you know, if you’re willing to learn. It’s there for you. You know, it’s all out there. Granted, you know, there is a lot of, a lot of garbage you may have to weed through if you’re trying to educate yourself, but, you know, if you go into the right channels and are disciplined enough, yeah, you can pick up a skill, a trade, a, a discipline all on your own and, um, you know, make a business out of it just like you’ve done yourself.

Rory: Certainly. Absolutely. 

Arlen: Well, great worry. And uh, you know, before we let you go, if any of our listeners want to pick your brain anymore about online advertising and just a general ad strategies for their eCommerce business, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you? 

Rory: Last thing to do is to go to help with

And we’ve got, you know, a contact form over there and some, uh, information that may be useful to your listeners in terms of how we create our ad campaigns, how we structure creative, all things they can check out. 

Arlen: Ray. Well, I appreciate that Rory, and that’s an awesome domain. That’s definitely something people won’t easily forget.

Help with I love that. All right, well, great. Well, thank you again for joining us today on the eCommerce Marketing Podcast.

Rory: Pleasure to be here.

Podcast Guest Info

Rory Stern
Founder of RFS Digital Media