Starting An E-Commerce Education Platform Generating $35K/Month

$35,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
3
Employees
product
Ecom Crew Podcast
from San Diego/Vancouver
started August 2015
$35,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
3
Employees
237K
alexa rank

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

EcomCrew is an ecommerce blog and a podcast where myself and Michael Jackness take off our ecommece hats and pretend to be journalists and investigative reporters.

We interview guests about all topics ecommerce through the podcast and do some investigative journalism on ecommerce topics on everything from getting jobs at FBA warehouses to investigating dirty Amazon selling tactics in China.

We started EcomCrew around 2014. For the first 3 years we never monetized EcomCrew. This year we finally began to sell a membership to our private ecommerce group that includes exclusive access to ecommerce courses, webinars, events, etc.. Currently we do around $35,000 a month in revenue.

starting-an-e-commerce-education-platform-generating-35k-month

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Both Mike and myself have always had a lot of passion for creating content, whether it’s blog writing, podcasting, or video creation. Creating content has far fewer constraints than creating physical products and also allows us to be more creative.

We learned to start growing our audience immediately. Eventually, you form an identity and people will start to resonate with you. In the beginning, we didn’t necessarily know who we were.

Mike used to run a multi-million dollar poker affiliate site and I sold my first content website when I was 14 (for a whopping $500- the biggest moment of my life up to that point!).

Unfortunately, in ecommerce we don’t get a lot of opportunities to scratch that itch so EcomCrew was our medium to do this. We both always have the mentality ‘half-assed is better than not done at all and that’s basically how we got started’.

Our first blog posts were literally 2 or 3 paragraphs talking about different importing terminology and the first podcast episode was a fairly unstructured 20 minutes of random musings.

Take us through the process of getting started and launching.

The site started with us documenting all of the challenges we had in starting and running ecommerce businesses. The great thing with podcasting and blogging is you don’t need a lot to get started- a WordPress website and Libsyn.com account, both of which are free, are the minimum buy-ins.

When we started we knew podcasts fail for two reasons. First, people never get started. Second, people don’t stick with it. That was our key - to get started ASAP, even if the first episode wasn’t perfect (and/or embarrassing!) and stick to a schedule no matter what (in the beginning we podcasted weekly’ now it’s twice weekly).

The first interviews were done with people in our personal networks and in fact we continue to have a policy of only interviewing people we personally know. It somewhat limits our potential guests but it’s a great screening mechanism.

When we first started, there wasn’t nearly the amount of information available about running a 7 figure ecommerce company like there is today. Now there’s a lot more information available - clearly, we’ve been solely responsible for creating countless ecommerce millionaires! (*sarcasm*).

It’d be nice to give one hack that rocketed our business but a lot of growth has simply been organic and word-of-mouth. Mike and I have both been very pro-active with connecting with a lot of people in the ecommerce community. It’s cliched, but we really do try to take a ‘give before asking’ approach. Doing this has resulted in a lot of opportunities to be guests on other podcasts, do guest blog post writing, speaking at events, etc.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

For people who join our community, they’ve normally followed us for months or even years. They normally stumble across our podcast or one of our pieces of content through a Google search, then start to regularly consume it, and then eventually become a member. We’ve been fortunate, especially as of late, to get some great backlinks to our site from sites like Tim Ferris’ blog, USA Today, and so on.

The sales cycle is huge. Many people have followed us for months or even years before they actually decide to become a member of EcomCrew Premium. We’ve tried advertising to cold audiences, largely through Facebook, and it almost universally fails for us.

Once people start following us though, we are fairly aggressive in reminding these people about times when our Premium membership opens throughout the year (it’s not evergreen). Email is by far the most effective for us. If we open membership for a week, we’ll typically email people 5 of 7 days. People are pretty forgiving of “salesy” emails as long as they’re getting a healthy dose of “non-salesy” free content. This is also where we turn on our Facebook Remarketing Ads. We only open membership for a few weeks a year so only having to have Facebook ads running for a few weeks a year really limits expenses (it’s easy to get crazy with budgets on Facebook!).

Because we offer a lot of 1 on 1 support for our members and we have a fair amount of demand, we’re now starting to target our messaging towards people who we really want as members.

We probably leave money on the table this way but the positive benefit is we get to interact with members we really like and enjoy helping.

What’s the business model and how you do make money?

We have a Premium members area that we charge a yearly membership fee for. Right now it’s priced at around $1500 a year. Members get access to full-length courses, private webinars, a Facebook community, and events. This price has continuously been going up as we continue to add more and more content.

Communities and learning are huge, especially for the millennial generation.

Earlier in the year, we switched to a subscription-based model opposed to a one time fee. Of course, this helps have a more predictable revenue stream for us but it also forces us to continuously be adding new content for our members so they keep getting value and don’t cancel their memberships.

We’re fortunate in that we have almost no marketing costs and no product costs of course. This is a breath of fresh air compared to ecommerce where profit margins normally run below 15%. The time and effort to build organic content is substantial though - it’s definitely not passive income! Right now we get around 30,000 unique visitors a month to the website and a similar number of monthly podcast downloads. It’s not huge but we have a pretty loyal audience.

As we grow and our membership base grows we’re having to hire more and more people, most in the Philippines although we’ve partnered up with a good Canadian friend to help with our design and videography.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We learned to start growing our audience immediately. Eventually, you form an identity and people will start to resonate with you. In the beginning, we didn’t necessarily know who we were.

Communities and learning are huge, especially for the millennial generation. I think a lot of people, including myself, are somewhat skeptical of traditional universities and are willing to pay for more practical education. People will pay a lot of money for both of those things - even more than a great garlic press on Amazon.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our website is based on WordPress and it more or less gets the job done (as much as our designer curses it).

Our entire paid Premium area is based on New Kajabi. Kajabi is easily one of my favorite SaaS products and they do an amazing job as a course/content platform. I highly recommend them.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Several years ago I stumbled upon the blog and podcast ecommercefuel.com. This was one of the first ecommerce communities created and it basically was where I’ve managed to create dozens of close friendships. I’m still an active member here.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

As I mentioned before, the best thing people can do is to start forming an audience now. Open a WordPress site and just start documenting something you care about in your life. Don’t worry about style and form as that’ll come over time.

Also, have a schedule for content creation and stick to it. Whether you want to blog/podcast daily, weekly, or monthly pick a schedule and never fall from it. Very few people ever start and even fewer stick with it once they start.

Where can we go to learn more?

Best thing people can do is check out ecomcrew.com.

-  

Dave Bryant,   Founder of Ecom Crew Podcast

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