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Robert: Welcome to the e-commerce marketing podcast. Today’s guest is Allen Chiang from Retro Radio Farm. Welcome to the podcast Allen.
Allen: Hi Robert.
Robert: Hey how’s it going? So can you please tell us a little bit about Retro Radio Farm, what it is and what you sell?
Allen: Sure, so Retro Radio Farm is a home based business that started, it grew out of my hobby, repairing and restoring the antique, vintage, retro radios.
Allen: 60s, actually the 30s on up to the 60s.
Robert: Ok so and how did you like, how did you get into this as a hobby, and figure out maybe there’s a business and I can actually be selling this and earn some money?
Allen: So I’ve always had an interest in anything that was vintage. I collect vintage cars, I collect vintage guitars, I collect old artwork, I’ve got a training in electronics so the two kind of found each other, and I start repairing these old radios just because I enjoy doing it. they start piling up all over around my house so I started to sell them on eBay and Etsy, and also via my website, and I found that there was an interest or demand for this repaired and restored radios out there, for people who enjoy the look of these clock radios, and radios from long ago, and did not know how to repair them. So it was a marketplace that sort of discovered, I found, and I was able to sell.
Robert: Okay and how long have you been doing this?
Allen: It’s going on four years now.
Robert: Ok so four years, so that’s actually like really cool because here you have your own hobby, and you’ve converted it into a business where it’s earning you money for the last four years. So are you doing this full time? Is it part time?
Allen: It’s part time. it’s whenever I got a free moments, kids are watching cartoons, I don’t want to sit and watch more cartoons, I go downstairs, it’s my man cave, and I’ll just take around.
Robert: Yeah, so I just like the thought that it’s so unique where you actually use in your hobby to make money, and is it bringing in good money?
Allen: It’s just small money you know, it’s just a fun. If I didn’t sell any radios, I be fine also. I’ve got a day job that pays well, that keeps me busy, and I’ve got activities with my family that keeps me way busy, busier than I need to be. So this is just really on the side when I have some extra time, and I enjoy all aspects of this business. not just the radios I also find, got a deep interest in the internet, and social media, and got interest in photography, I have got interest in treasure hunting, so all aspects of this business from the time I source, the time I repair through the posting of these radios on the website, that monitoring the traffic to my website, and find Adword, all that is a hobby to me.
Robert: Ok so one of the reasons actually I’m happy to have you on the podcast is because with your business it’s very unique, you have a unique buyer. Somebody who’s looking for these retro radios, old radios, maybe they like it because of quality, but to find that customer you need to find unique marketing strategies. so I think having you on is going to help other business honors see that despite of what you’re selling you’re still able to find your buyer if you use certain marketing strategies. So let’s just delve into it. What are the top marketing strategies that you’re using to find your customers and grow your business?
Allen: So I found the best marketing approach is a diversified one. So I’ve incorporated a multitude of strategies to drive traffic to my site. I use combination of direct advertising, Google Adwords, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Etsy, and I vary and adjust my marketing spends on each of these venues on a regular basis, so I tweaked it constantly to maximize returns of my marketing dollars. So far the most cost effective marketing strategy I found with the highest conversion has been targeted direct advertising. So these are ad placements specifically http://antiqueradios.com for instance.
Robert: Ok, so before we look at antique radios you said you like using a diversified marketing campaign approach. So how do you find the different channels so that you can test it out? You mentioned Google, Facebook, Pinterest, but how do you hear about these channels, and then how long do you test them out for, and decide okay I’m going to go with antique radios because I see that this is the one that actually gets me the most results.
Allen: So that’s a really good question, right. Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, I mean these are pretty big with this platforms, people hear of them, and so I hear of them, and therefore I seek my advertising opportunities out through them. But there are some other smaller, you know social platforms that I sort of have to discover by chance. Like for example http://antiqueradios.com is something that’s Googled you know. Where do people go to learn more about antique radios? I had never gone to http://antiqueradios.com but it was a pretty intuitive keyword search, kind a form that that spoke to antique radios.
Robert: Ok, and once you’ve found this form antique radios, and you place and ad, a direct add-on them, how much profit did they send you, like would you say that about of your customers now just come from that? Once you saw that, how did you plan to improve those results?
Allen: Right, so antique radio sends me a consistent number of leads. Not a huge number, and that’s why I need to incorporate diversified approach, because basically each can you give me a trickle. When you add it all up you know it forms like a complete marketing campaign. I could not rely on any particular venue to give you all my leads.
Robert: Okay, so and how you wanted to improve the results from your diversified marketing approach?
Allen: So I am constantly working with Google Adwords to manipulate the amount of spend vs. the amount of click throughs, and I don’t want to spend more than have the results plateau out, and I’m throwing more money at it, but not getting more leads. So you know I dial that down, maybe dial up Facebook, and try different things. There’s really no magic formula, there’s no silver bullet to get me all the leads I want in one place, so I’ve gotta constantly shift, and change, and try this, try something else.
Robert: You do any SEO?
Allen: Yeah, so that’s also another thing. so, in all my webpages I have embedded keywords, the headers, great so when people search for let’s say antique radio or vintage electronics or vintage retro furniture, even I’ve used keywords that have nothing to do with radio but will get me the type of market segment I’m looking for. so I know that people are interested in vintage furniture or vintage decor, mid-century modern decor, might be interested in my product, so I embed a lot of these keywords into the header of my website, then the web crawlers of the search engine will find my web pages and hopefully rank my on my website higher in the search results.
Robert: Okay, and are you concerned about when you do all this diversified marketing approach? Are you concerned of getting more traffic than you can handle, since you have said that this is just something you do on the side?
Allen: Right, so I am concerned about that. So I want to maintain a quality service delivery, and service experience, right. So don’t take on more that o can handle, and so far that’s been the biggest problem is I’m very careful about not spending too much. I mean could I spend a lot of money on this, and then sell more product? You bet I could, but then I’d have to quit my day job, hire my wife as an employees, who knows my kids could come down to the shop and help daddy. But you know I’m not up to that point yet, but definitely I’m able to get more business when I can sustain it.
Robert: Ok, the question I actually had for you was if you do anything for conversion, optimization?
Allen: That’s a tricky question, right. Because I’m trying to do that, every single marketing avenue I’m trying to optimize conversion. So maximizing conversion rates is a constant multifaceted approach. My conversion rates approximately one sale, 1500 clicks on a blended bases across all my marketing channels. And I suspect that there’s cross-pollination across the channels, so by maintain a diversified approach rather than relying on CTR alone for increasing conversion.
Robert: Okay, and just go back to what you said before, when I asked you about you know being concerned about bringing in a lot of business that you can’t handle, you said at this point you don’t want that, but is that an eventual goal you want for Retro Radio Farm where you can just quit everything and hire everybody, is that an eventual goal, or are you just going to stick to have a.
Allen: It’s definitely something that my wife and I have considered, come out with multiple product lines, maybe doing vintage TVs, and then adapting them for digital broadcast so they watch like the old vintage looking TVs using modern cable or set-top boxes. So we look at that, we’re also looking at possibly publishing a book. Obviously radios alone would not be enough income for me unless I sell millions of these things, but then the problem becomes sourcing. How do I source a million of these things? So there’s definitely a finite amount of return available in just radio. So I’d have to grow the brand to encompass other products in order to make this a sustainable business?
Robert: Ok, and so far it sounds like you just doing this by yourself. You don’t want to involve anybody else, you don’t want to involve your wife, and kids, and how much time do you think you put in?
Allen: Maybe I put it 4 hours, 48 hours a week.
Robert: Ok, 48 hours a week.
Allen: No, 4-8 hours a week.
Robert: Ok, for 4-8, and during those hours are you just mainly focusing on the marketing or do you have other priorities for just maintaining the business, and trying to find income.
Allen: Well, I would say eighty percent of time I spend in this Hobby is in actually repair and restoration. So troubleshooting the electronic circuits, cleaning them up. Some of these days have been neglected and stored in mud and dirt for 20 years, so you know it takes a lot to bring back a life, you know and some of these radios have damaged cabinets, missing pieces and I have to fabricate some of these things, knobs, and switches, and what not. It’s not easy that way. And the rest of the time I spend in photography, and posting to the website. Packaging, boxing up orders, and send them out by UPS or post office.
Robert: Ok, and other than just fixing the radios, and that being like way to spend a lot of the time, and struggle for the business, what have been some of your struggles in like the last 12 months?
Allen: So the inability to keep up with demand in very peak season. So this, the nature of this product, and I think my business is either feast or famine, right. I do most of my business during holidays, and it gets kind of quiet around you know January to march, and that picks up again during the summer. And then when it’s busy, it’s really busy, and it’s hard to keep up. The cost of advertising really outpaced my ability to convert. So I could throw more money at this, and sell more radios, but then I personally couldn’t keep up with them. Also online advertising suffers from a lack of linearity. I’m sorry it suffers from linearity. I can put more money into it buy more clicks, but clicks on aren’t necessarily quality clicks. Like the first clicks I get, the low-hanging fruit is the best of the best clicks. Beyond that if I’m doubling my budget, or tripling or [inaudible – (13:37)] on my budget 10 fold, the clicks that I get aren’t as convertible. These are people, you know who might be searching for like something that’s related to vintage lifestyle and in passing they come for my website, but they don’t actually buy any. the people actually see my, the first time, oh this is what I’ve been looking for, those are the people that actually come to my site, and eventually buy. you think about it, they pick one they really like, maybe sit around, and wait for one they are really looking for, eventually they place their order. So it seems like I see the same amount of clicks month after month, and if I ratchet up my spend I get more clicks, but not necessarily more business.
Robert: Ok, and other than the traffic that goes to your website, what are the distributional channels that you used to sell?
Allen: So rely heavily on Amazon, and Etsy, and my vanity domain http://retroradiofarm.com is definitely by far most effective way for me to sell this product. I used to sell on eBay, but now I stopped, almost completely because eBay’s costs are so high.
Robert: Ok, and you mentioned Amazon that you use Amazon, but you said that your website is the most cost-effective. Is it more expensive to sell on Amazon?
Allen: Not really. Amazon is pretty low maintenance. I used to upload my data feed file to the amazon shopping engine, and I put my product into their shopping categories under arts and entertainment, and vintage electronics or something that if anyone who’s looking products in that category would find my items. and to this day every month or so I’ll pump my data feed file out to Google’s Merchants Gateway, and also Amazon to be able to get my product I think through their own product catalog or something.
Robert: Ok. Allen it’s been great to have you on, if people wanted to reach you how can they reach you?
Allen: The best way is to contact me through the http://retroradiofarm.com, there is a contact form for you to reach out to me directly.
Robert: Okay, yeah and like I said I wanted to have you on because you have a unique product that you’re trying to sell, and sometimes with marketing this always that fear or thought of complaint that, hey I can’t get to my customers, but as you’ve seen here you have converted, and changed, and made your hobby into a business, and you’re still able to find customers to find you. So I really appreciate you coming on. Did you have any final thoughts?
Allen: So yeah, my Retro Radio Farm business idea is really a testing ground for my future business ideas. It keeps me fresh with and that knowledgeable on the technology, so when the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll pivot, maybe get out of Retro Radio Farm, and do something that will make lots of money. But in order for me to stay sharp on what’s happening out there with technology, and social media, and advertising, and any type of the classroom hopefully based on you know something I enjoy doing, but also something that keeps me alert, and fresh with what’s happening out there. I won’t need to run my understanding in eCommerce when that next big idea comes.
Robert: Yeah because of that, and what you have experienced, and you really know your way around, so it should be just easier to sell and set up everything. Ok, the last question I usually ask is what is the one thing an eCommerce business can do right now to help the business grow, get traffic itself?
Allen: So my advice is that free PR, public relations type opportunities are everywhere. As long as you reach out, let’s say to the editorial community, let the traditional publications be your megaphone for potential customers. It costs nothing, there are bloggers out there, there are newspaper editors out there that are constantly looking for exciting, and new content. So they need to find out about you, and you know you can’t just sit back, and let them hopefully find you, but you can take the gauntlet, and reach out to them. Being published also lends a huge amount of credibility to any prospective customers. continues to drive clicks to the site because as long as they’re write up is online, people will find you through that content, and the search engines also do a page back referral type of mechanism so that if you’re linked to from their article, your website will get ranked higher search results. So it helps in all aspects to reach out to traditional publications, and editorial, and bloggers, those types of folks, and see if they are interested in doing a story on you.
Robert: Thanks for being with the podcast Allen.
Allen: All right, thank you.
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