Since the pandemic, entrepreneurs have experienced drastic and sudden changes in the way they do their business. Now more than ever, e-commerce has grown massively because the game has changed. And almost everyone is shifting to craft their strategies in the digital marketing world. Ryan O’Connor shares his professional journey and how he faced the changes brought by the pandemic. Ryan is the co-founder of Worth eCommerce, a Portland-based email marketing agency and the former founder of a multi-million dollar store selling phone accessories. In this episode with Tony Frischknecht, they explore ways to execute your marketing strategies for your business to thrive in the noisy digital world. They also discuss challenges in marketing like Facebook advertisements and more.
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Digital Marketing Strategies That Scale Customer Relationships With Ryan O’Connor
I want to bring somebody on here that of us in the cannabis world would like to get a little more insight with. When it comes to marketing your cannabis, CBD, or hemp business, the platforms out there, most of them are not very willing to help us out. I deal with the same issues, even though I discuss cannabis, the word itself is what throws us off. I’ve got a Ryan O’Connor on with me.
He is the Founder of Worth eCommerce, a Portland-based email marketing agency as well as the former founder of a multi-million-dollar store selling phone accessories. He has had a fascinating journey from doing research for his Master’s in Psychology at NASA to the fast-paced world of eCommerce, running his Facebook ads to help businesses scale their customer relationships with emails and SMS marketing.
Ryan, thank you so much for joining me. I’m glad to have you on. I hope my readers understand the value you can bring. I’m ready to bring some value.
Thanks for having me on, Tony. I’m excited for the conversation.
What struck me is your Master’s working with NASA. That’s pretty interesting stuff. I imagine you’re looking back on it saying, “I was doing this.”
That was a lot back before the legalization of CBD and cannabis. I didn’t like that world. It was too slow-paced for me. I like staying on top of trends. I like fast pace where things are always changing.
What have you been doing? Share a little bit with the readers about how you’ve been creating marketing, emails, and SMS for us, will you?
In 2020 since COVID has been the wildest ride of my entrepreneurial journey, eCommerce completely boomed. It happened within two weeks of mid-March to April 2020 and our business has grown five times. A lot has changed since 2020. The game has changed. There have been changes in Facebook and Google, especially with cannabis, CBD, and hemp. There are a lot of challenges with marketing regulations, changing, and going back.
There have been issues with merchants and credit cards. We’ve been trying to stay on top. Our whole principle is how do we create a platform that our clients own it, we own it, and it can never be taken away. Facebook ads and Google rankings can be taken away. We’re all about what’s called owned marketing, which is channels like email, SMS, and physical addresses. Once you have that information for your business, no one can take that away from you.The ultimate goal of most cannabis companies is to get customers on a replenishment cycle. Click To Tweet
I don’t think people understand the power that they have given it up to companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon. I’ve had it happen on a little scale but I’ve definitely heard a lot of horror stories. Things are great and then they’re not. It’s like a switch.
I’ve been in eCommerce for years when Facebook ads were $2 per purchase. I’ve seen businesses on Amazon, Facebook, and Google. That’s their number one channel. It brings in 90% of the business. Something changes and I see it on all platforms. This is a million-dollar a month business. One change, pop straight down. The same with and even in CBD, I saw that. They’ve been in CBD for years now, a business called Soul CBD. Visa, one of their merchants, pulled processing and their sales dropped.
I’m not sure how much of my background you know but I own a couple of dispensaries here in Colorado and a couple of grows. We had merchant accounts that we set up so early in time. They were before they understood regulations. That was the only reason we had a merchant account. What we did not do is change anything for several years. We did our transactions, they left us alone, they didn’t ask us any questions and we didn’t ask them anything.
That’s why we were lucky enough to have a credit card system but the majority of people that got into cannabis, it was not like a switch. It was like, “You’re in cannabis. Sorry, we can’t help you.” It was just this constant no. Of course, there are some regulations that they’re trying to pass now to the safe banking app, which they hope that changes but we’re still in this realm of having a problem with merchant accounts.
That’s very helpful to know the background. I didn’t know that it’s been an issue for that long. I thought it was the government finally realized they got to regulate but to put so much time, effort, and heart into a business and have something one little change that all can get swept out on your feet, to me, that’s one of the scariest things in the world and the most frustrating, too. I believe that the most important thing any business can do is figuring out how they can have a channel and process that they own that can never be taken away, even if other channels get changed or taken from them and that is through email.
For many years, I’ve created an understanding to control over that and that is so important because we spend thousands of dollars and man-hours. I personally have spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on this over the last few years. The scariest part is, how do we prevent that from happening? That’s where somebody like you comes in. How do we control our information and control our ads ourselves? What do we do?
Personally, our team is more involved in the backend. As far as driving traffic, our clients will do that but once you send traffic to your store you’re investing in, whether it be SEO ads, marketing with both their partners and CBD and cannabis platforms, whatever it be to drive to your website, our goal from there is we know only 1% to 5% of those visitors are going to buy and convert. Our goal is we’ve found that about 15% of visitors are willing to make an exchange.
They don’t trust the company yet in a lot of cases to make a purchase. That exchange is usually, “I’ll give my email or my phone number in exchange for a free gift, discount, or something valuable, whatever it be.” Our goal is to collect more traffic and then once you have that email and phone number then you own that forever. The cost of marketing to people on your list is pennies.
From that point on, it’s creating a customer journey. How do we build that trust and get someone to buy for the first time? Once someone has tried to cannabis, CBD, or hemp products, after a month, what’s your purchase cycle? How do we get them to buy again or buy another product? If you have a subscription, how do we get them on a replenishment cycle? That’s the ultimate goal of most cannabis companies.
I wanted to go back because you had brought up something that triggered. You’re saying that building that trust, the start of that is a free giveaway like, “This is who we are. Here’s a hat, sweatshirt, or something that’s saying, ‘Thanks for coming. Check us out. Thanks for your email address. Here’s a hat.'” Is that where it starts?
In most cases, something like that. It could be a hat with their purchase. Most eCommerce businesses give discounts out, a coupon discount, or cash value if someone makes a purchase. That’s usually the highest converting method. It’s giving something free in exchange for that email address.
For all of us that buy a lot of things online, we all have come accustomed in 2020 where you type in for the first time, they’re like, “By the way, give us your email address. You’ll save 10%.”
That’s the traditional way to do it.
Let’s talk marketing, too. Let’s say you’ve got your eCommerce site. Do you guys work with dispensaries or mostly online stores?
Our services are specifically for online stores but a lot of our clients do also have dispensaries.
Regulations are changing now, too. In Colorado, they’re talking about deliveries. It’s been happening for quite some time in California. We’re going to start seeing that happening. They’re going to be ordering and get similar discounts online and then be able to market from there. I understand direct marketing. That’s not too hard. Once you got their email, it’s like, “Now we can send these guys promos and SMS messaging,” which I know we had utilized a lot because that’s your goal.
There’s your customer structure. What advice can you offer for people that are going outside that realm to bring them to your store? How do you get them there? I have had massive issues with running anything ad-wise with Facebook or I’ve gotten a couple to go through, but that’s been one of my biggest challenges even as a podcaster.
The only advice I could offer in terms of inbound marketing or the people coming in that is what I’ve seen our clients do, we don’t directly manage that side. I’ve seen clients where they set up a complimentary business that’s not cannabis or CBD-related, so it’s a new legal space. Cannabis, CBD, and hemp have different benefits and they’re related to different types of problems like anxiety, sleep, and relaxation. I’ve seen our clients create separate products, businesses, and websites, market those, get customers into that funnel and then cross-promote sister brands.As marketers, creating a platform for clients they own that can never be taken away is a great way to start. Click To Tweet
It’s funny you say that because that’s how we did our banking. To those of you out there, for the banking side, this is considered a form of money laundering to the IRS and to the Federal Government. It’s a scary zone to play in. What would happen to somebody that was forming a new company saying, “By the way, we also have this product,” and then they click on this button and it takes them to that site? Is that where you’re talking about?
That’s not nearly as dangerous as money laundering but what we did is we set up a different company and said, “This is our company and we put our money into there.” of course, it didn’t work for very long. We got accounts shut down quite often, but it’s interesting that going to the internet world, it’s very similar to saying, “We have some other CBD products. If you’re interested, here you go. Click here this link,” and they find you there. That makes perfect sense to me.
I’ve seen it where it’s like a product or a service. There’s a sleep program or a meditation program and then separately, there’s a sponsorship company that sells CBD and cannabis or it could be sleep product and then a sponsorship or a sister company sells the CBD, cannabis, or whatever it be.
We’re always looking for an edge. I’ve had issues with the way the algorithm changed. You guys were talking about its ever-changing, trying to stay up, and ahead of that. It seems like nobody puts it in print like, “This is how you make your ads directed towards your audience,” and it becomes extremely frustrating. If I’m trying to run a business at the same time, how am I supposed to figure out all these different things that are happening to get to my end customer like, “We want you to come look at the website. That’s all we’re trying to do,” and I got to run my business?
Being a business owner and entrepreneur in 2020 and 2021 is probably harder than it ever has before in some ways, but more rewarding. There are more tools available to us and many more options. I think it’s important to prioritize which channels you believe are going to drive the most business, and then as you grow, making the right hires that are going to help grow your business when you don’t have the expertise or probably it’s how I’ve done it and that’s the best way to go.
That’s a great way to put it. For those that are reading, Ryan is down in Mexico and he’s running his operation down there even though he’s from Portland and his company is based in Portland. These are some of the pluses of living in the virtual world.
It’s been a wild journey over 2020. Our office has shut down in the middle of March 2020. I was sitting in my home and most of team is still in Portland. A few started to travel but after a couple of months of that, I got real stir crazy. I was like, “Why am I going to sit here? Who knows how long it’s going to last?” I started to travel the places that were open like Mexico.
We see it here in Colorado. There’s a lot of people that are either trying to move here, rent, buy, or whatever. It’s been this mass growth spurt for Colorado. We had one a few years ago and now it’s exploding again. Home prices are insane but this is one of the great things we’re not seeing and we won’t notice until maybe another year or two. It’s like, “Everybody transitioned to working online. We’re living wherever we think is exciting.” Portland is a great place but you got to agree with me. I’m sure Mexico is much nicer.
When it’s winter in Portland, Mexico is much nicer.
Ryan, how do people get in touch with you if they want to figure out some marketing strategies and email strategies?
You can contact us at our website. It’s WortheCommerce.com. You can also feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Search for Ryan O’Connor Worth or Ryan O’Connor eCommerce, I’ll come up on there and I’ll respond to you directly. I’m happy to open up a conversation, talk about your business, help you figure out how to create your own channels so you’re not having to rely on these third parties that can slip away at any point. I’m happy to have these conversations.
If you want to control your own marketing and make sure that it stays with you, I look at it more of it’s your IP for your company. It’s your intellectual property. We all out there, especially new to internet marketing, don’t understand how valuable that is and how it can go away on a whim. Ryan, thanks so much for pointing that out. That’s probably one of our biggest things from this episode.
Thank you so much for doing that. Reach out to me anytime you want. If you like what you’re reading and you want to follow us more, please follow us on YouTube, because all of our episodes are up there, too. Ryan, thanks so much for joining us and enjoy Mexico. I hope your business continues to thrive.
Thank you so much, Tony. Thank you for having me. You’re a great host.
You’re welcome. See you guys next time on the show.
- Worth eCommerce
- LinkedIn – Ryan O’Connor
- YouTube – Tony Frischknecht
About Ryan O’Connor
Ryan OConnor is the founder of Worth eCommerce, a Portland-based email marketing agency as well as the former founder of a multi-million dollar store selling phone accessories.
He has had a fascinating journey from doing research for his Masters in Psychology at NASA to the fast-paced world of eCommerce running his own FB ads to helping businesses scale their customer relationships with email & SMS marketing.
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