Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 173 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Sven Raphael Schneider from Gentleman’s Gazette about starting and growing his business by fulfilling a need.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Olena Osipov from iFOODreal about the importance of dreaming big in order to grow your blog. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Sven Raphael Schneider started his business, Gentleman’s Gazette, out of a need. He was looking for information on men’s fashion, and he couldn’t find it.
So he fulfilled the need he saw and created the content himself.
From there, he learned a lot about running a business, from diversifying his income to understanding the correlation between quality and sales. You’ll learn all about his strategies for growth in this episode.
Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Rosscito! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
We’d like to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty! Check out wptasty.com to learn more about their handcrafted WordPress plugins specifically made for food bloggers.
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Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I share the number one thing I’m most excited to buy in the next few months, and Bjork talks to Sven Raphael Schneider about creating the content you can’t find.
Hey, hey, lovely listener. Alexa here, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Today’s episode is sponsored by our friends add WP Tasty, which is our sister site for all of your food blogging Wordpress plugin needs. If you’re on the hunt for a solid heavy lifting plugin to help you run your blog more efficiently and more effectively, then check out WP Tasty at wptasty.com.
And if you’ve listened to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast recently, you’ll know that we also offer up a little tasty tip along with the information about our sponsors. And today’s tasty tip is all about the number one thing I am just so excited to buy in the next few weeks, and that is, drum roll please, a new planner for 2019. Yes, I am a pencil and paper girl through and through, and I find that I do my best planning, scheduling, focusing, and preparing when working with a good old fashioned paper planner.
Like the millennial that I am, my favorites are from Moleskin, but there are approximately 5 billion planners out on the market every single year. And what I love about buying a new planner is that it’s just a refreshing way to start my year off on the right foot. I start my editorial calendar, add in the important dates I don’t want to forget, and just start thinking ahead. In a world that’s just totally technologically centric, having that paper planner helps me keep focused.
And if I’m adding something into my Google calendar, chances are I’ll get distracted by social media, or an email that needs answered, or by photos that need edited. My paper planner gives me that separate place to plan, dream, and organize that’s just outside of the distraction of the internet. Every planner is different. There are different layouts, some have times, some don’t. So if you’re looking for a new planner for the new year, read some reviews, do some research, actually go see someone in person, and then see which style works best for you.
And now the episode. This interview with Sven is a bit different than most because he runs a men’s fashion website called Gentleman’s Gazette, but he talks about an incredibly important topic that I have actually been sinking a lot of thought into recently, and that is the importance of being a resource. If you’re trying to find out information about something and you don’t quite find what you’re looking for, or maybe it’s just a bit confusing and it’s not in the right format, you have the awesome opportunity as a blogger, creator, business owner, to be that resource for other people.
If you’re looking for it, chances are that other people are looking for it too, and that’s exactly why Sven started his business, Gentleman’s Gazette. You’ll learn about the troubles he faced early on, how he diversifies his income, what social media platform he’s going all in on, and just so much more. I think you’ll really enjoy this episode. Take it away, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to the podcast.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Thank you, Bjork. Pleasure to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, this is going to be a really fun conversation because we have had many conversations.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Indeed.
Bjork Ostrom: And I also was thinking about kind of building up a queue for the podcast here while we’re going to be out with baby.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Always a good idea.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, always a good idea. You went through that last year. I thought about, hey, who would be some of the people that I’d really enjoy talking with? And those people were kind of my friends in online business. And you’re here in the Twin Cities, and we’ve connected multiple times, and I thought, oh, I would love to bring you onto the podcast to share a little bit about your story because I always learn something whenever we get together, and we’d love to share that with our audience here. So thanks for coming on and excited to talk with you.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Of course, Bjork. Anytime.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I actually wanted to lead off with this, there’s a conversation that we had. It was maybe the first time or the second time that we ever met, and you had talked about being in this space of kind of trying to figure out what was next for you, and online business building was one of those paths that you were kind of analyzing. And one of the things that I thought was so impressive about that conversation, as you reflect back on that, was you had this really long-term view of it.
You said, “I kind of looked around, I saw other people that were doing it, and I saw it was like kind of a five-year mark for when it finally tipped over into an actual viable business,” and you decided to go down that path. So can you rewind and tell that story and bring us back to that point where you’re kind of trying to figure out what was next in your life and why you were having that decision, what you were processing through, and your decision to build a business online?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Absolutely. So basically, I’m from Germany originally, and I came to the US. I went to law school, and at that point, I had known that I really hated law. But it was just a way for me to kind of get a degree from American University. So I got married to my wife, and then you file for your green card, and you don’t have a work permit. So I just, for the first time in my adult life, had time on my hand. And so I did what I wanted to do, which was my hobby, classic men’s clothing. And blogs were somewhat still new then, and I couldn’t really find what I wanted. So I was like, let’s give this a try. It’s a constructive use of my time.
And by the time my work permit rolled around, we already had some revenue from our first advertiser. And I just sat down and said, “Hey, if I want to do this seriously, what does it take?” And so I was sort of looking around to see what others had done, and it seemed like if you were doing it right for five years, you had a chance at making $100,000 a year. That was in 2009, 2010. So the economy was terrible. No one was waiting to hire a foreigner with no American work experience. So there were no jobs other than maybe, I don’t know, stocking shelves at Target. I didn’t find it too enticing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: I just sat down and said, “Let’s do this.” My wife was on board. She brought home the paycheck, so I had that kind of leeway and time to pursue that way.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Do you remember in those early years or those early months even, one of the hard things is you talk about sitting down and doing it, but when you sit down and you have this ambition of building a business, and in your case saying, “Okay, I have this idea of a healthy salary, $100,000 a year. I want to get to that point in five years,” and you sit down and you have a blank computer screen. Like what do those first few steps look like when you have this huge ambitious goal? And how did you kind of formulate a plan and really know what to work on? That’s one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur, is knowing what to work on.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yeah. And you know, actually it’s funny because before that five-year goal, and before I actually started the blog on Wordpress, I was looking at Dreamweaver because I had some experience with it as a teenager.
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sven Raphael Schneider: Then I talked to someone else and they said, “Hey, I tried Wordpress and it’s really lots of advantages.” And at that time there was, I think, Drupal. There were a few other platforms. It was in no way clear that Wordpress would emerge as the clear winner. So I used Wordpress and I knew nothing about it, but I just self taught everything, and read online, and I thought that was super interesting. I was curious about it, and then I was like, wow, there’s lots of SEO. What can I do?
And I just figured, wow, you know, if I have an advertiser now who pays me $500 a month or $400 a month or whatever it was, if I can just scale that, and just calculated basically in my head, what would it take? And so I reverse engineered, okay, if I have a thousand page views a day now, if I write a thousand posts, that’s a million page views a day. Yes, if I can do that, then I get there. Of course, you’re a little green behind the ears.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Work out that way. You change your course along the way, but it all started with kind of a business plan. Initially, we thought of the Huffington Post. We create content, and we run ads, and we make money that way.
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Sven Raphael Schneider: But that was shattered early on when our very first advertiser kind of wanted a long-term contract just stopped paying. He was just, I think he was maybe in a difficult condition, but he just didn’t want to pay anymore and didn’t care about his contract. Even though I had been to law school, I knew that trying to … When you sue someone or when you’re involved in a legal battle, both sides lose and the lawyers win.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Clients rarely win, and so I wanted to focus my energy on growing my business and not go after spoiled milk, basically.
Bjork Ostrom: How did that first advertising contact come about? Was that somebody that you reach out to or did they reach out to you? What did that look like?
Sven Raphael Schneider: I had just provided very niche style content into classic men’s space, and there was really just one or two other blogs out there who had already been doing it before me. So I was approached because obviously, you know, new kid on the block, and I think they already ran ads on the other two platforms. So he just wanted to join in the third one, basically.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, got it. And so this is somebody that was at least familiar with running ads on a site.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: And so they kind of knew that. So this person, somewhere along the lines, you don’t get the check. So then it’s this realization of like, okay, we had this money coming in. You can kind of play the numbers game a little bit and say, “Okay. If I have $500 a month, what if I got three other people or four other people?” But then that goes away, and that causes you to kind of question like, well maybe advertising or at least advertising in this way that I envisioned it isn’t what we’re going to do. So at that point, did you kind of have a shift in strategy and start to look at it a little bit differently?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Absolutely. And you know, when you start out, you have that big vision of how it’s all going to pan out, and there are lots of rocks along the way. So for us, it was the advertiser canceling made me just realize, wow. This is really not something I can rely on. I can do what I say I will do, I can even overachieve and do it better. I can generate all the traffic I want and have millions of page views, but if the person who’s going to pay me for that just doesn’t pay-
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Sven Raphael Schneider: I’m out of luck. I can’t do anything, but I still have my bills to pay, my server bills, my hosting bills, my SAAS bills. That’s not going to go away. And at the same point in time, a lot of people had approached us and asked, “Where did you find these gloves?” And I would say, “I found them at a flea market in Vienna.” So not helpful for them.
And so we thought, wow, wouldn’t it be cool to not just write about things, and how a suit should fit ideally, and how he would put together outfits, but actually offer items that were clearly in line with what we were preaching? We thought yes, of course that’s cool. It was a long process, but we thought about it. We sat down and did a business plan and thought about how much money do we need? And we came up with it would be nice to have 30 grand. That’s a lot of money, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Just anything, and you just need that capital in the beginning to start. Otherwise, you’re not going to get anywhere.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and that’s actually something that I’m interested in talking to you about. One of the things that I hope to do on this podcast is to talk about different strategies and different angles that people can look at building a business online, and you have an interesting angle that we haven’t talked a lot about, which is actually having your own physical product. But you also have some of the more traditional ones. You have affiliate marketing, you have, at this point, also working with an advertiser to do ads on your site. So you have this kind of healthy pie to your business revenue distribution, where that’s all coming from.
Before we get to that though, in the earlier stages, was there a point where, you kind of had this grand vision, and I think a lot of us have that as we get into it. And even a couple of years in, we have this vision of what we want things to be in the future. Was there a point for you where it kind of locked into place and you said, “Okay, I think this is actually possible. This is something where I think that I can build it into a business?” Or because you had that early advertiser that came to you, was it pretty early on that that was established and you said, "Okay, I think this is gonna make sense to pursue as a business?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Absolutely. That first advertiser just made me a look at the industry, made me look at things that made me realize there is a way to do this. And since classic men’s clothing was my passion, that didn’t feel like work, and I knew I could do that. I didn’t have any business background. I think looking back, and now even as a teenager, I had sold fountain pens, and I always had an interest in business, but I had no formal training in that sense.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yep. That makes sense.
Sven Raphael Schneider: And also, I had this kind of law background, right? Lawyers, they would always bill hourly and account for every six minutes of their work life.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: And I always hated the idea of only making money when you work. From the get go, I was interested in building something that was really, really good and the concept was work once, make money forever. That was always a big driver for me.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what you mean by that and maybe some examples of what that looks like now with your business?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes. Even before, I was interested in SEO and how Google worked because I just thought it was fascinating that I can invest time in something once, create something that is really, really good, and then just let it sit there, work on something else, and if I do that a thousand times, I have the accumulated effect of everything until I can just lay back and wait and see money come in. Now as you know, it’s not always as linear as that, but at the core, it works like that.
I think my natural interest was quality, in depth content, long articles. I was creating what I couldn’t find. And then later, much later, I learned that Google came about actually looking at scientific journals and saying, “Well, if you are cited more often in other journals, you become more authoritative yourself.” And ultimately, we want to create awesome content for people. And so what we always did was we just created great content focused on people with the idea in mind that if we do this, then we’re already in line with what Google wants, and we don’t have to kind of stuff everything with keywords. And then when the next algorithm up that rolls around, renew all those keywords again.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that point that you made is a really, it’s really important for people to understand that in terms of why links are important as it relates to search engine optimization. I know that’s something that you’re really intentional about as you craft content. Can you go back and explain a little bit further when you’re talking about the scientific journals and how that was kind of used as inspiration for Google? What that means and then what that looks like now in terms of how links pass authority and why that’s something that’s really important as it relates to SEO?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yeah, of course. So they just looked at the scientific journals and said, “Wow, if you want to become a really important figure in the space, you are cited by a lot of other sources.” And so they said, “Well, if your site is linked to by many other sites, then your site becomes more authoritative and more important.” And so in the beginning, if you get a link from a pet food site, it was just as good as a link from maybe the New York Times. And then they realized, “Well, there’s New York Times. There’s this big pet food site, but you actually write about men’s clothing. So that link from the pet food site is not relevant at all.”
Of course, now people look at Google, see what I do, and they try to spam it. So they created those link farms, have lots of links that link to your site in the hopes to get your own site more important. But of course, then Google came and said, oh, this is an unnaturally looking link profile. So we punish you and de-list you. If Google traffic is important for you, and I think it is for the most big sites out there, then kind of being on the bad side of Google is not what you try to be.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and one of the things that you mentioned a couple times is this idea of really creating quality content. And it’s kind of like if you think back to that early example of scientific journals and these people creating a piece of content that’s super helpful in the scientific community, when they do that, lots of people reference it, therefore, that specific piece of content that they created is viewed as an authoritative piece of content.
And then Google saying, “Okay, let’s kind of try and replicate this,” with pages and posts online and creating Google search engines, and using that as a method. Obviously there’s many, many, many factors that go into that, but I think it’s a great little recap and important for people to understand that. And that’s why links are so important. So as you think about the content that you create and you think about quality content, what does that look like?
Are you intentionally going about and saying, “When I create a piece of content, I’m going to go and try and find ways to get links for it?” That’s something that we’ve never really done for Pinch of Yum, but I know some people are really intentional about finding ways and systems to help build links to their content.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes, I mean, there are various ways to do things, right? One of them, a popular one, would be the skyscraper method, where you just look at a particular topic.
Well, let’s take a step back. For me, when I wrote, I had still this idea of creating more articles. Then, I, at some point, thought, “Wow, I just need to publish a lot.” I published every day.
Bjork Ostrom: More is better.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes, more is better. Obviously, new article means something to look at. There was another publisher in our space, and they published every day, or at least every day during the week. Something like that.
I felt I had to do that, too. Then I realized, “Wow, if I keep doing this, I’m going to have a burnout.” I took a step back and said, “I always really want that quality content.” Doing your proper research takes hours. Writing, it takes hours. Taking the right pictures takes a long time. “Wow, if I have to do that, I can’t do one a day. That’s not possible.”
Then I said, “Ideally, if I spend time on something, I want this to be the best piece of content on this topic online at the time.” That was my approach. I had the knowledge in the space.
Now, sometimes, other people who are not necessarily very knowledgeable, but are good with SEO, what they do is, they say, “Hey, this is a keyword that receives a lot of traffic.” They look at all the top results, the first top ten results. They take all of that content and create one, basically master article, about it. Post it under their own name, and then actively solicit all people who have linked to those other ten articles and say, “Hey, we saw you linked to this article. We created this ultimate guide here. Why don’t you take a look at that?” Hoping that they get links that way.
For a while, we tried actively soliciting links. It’s kind of an art form on it’s own. Ultimately, you just need to build a relationship. What I found is if you just write to someone, “Hey, I have this amazing piece of content,” your success rate is what? .1%, one of a thousand? Not worth your time.
On the other hand, if you look, what did they link to in the past and ask them then, yes, it was even a little more likely. But still not worth the time. Ultimately, it was like, “Okay, if I reverse it and I ask myself, ‘What’s in it for them?’” And try to make it benefit driven, or at least start out and say, “Hey, I was on your site, I check it out. I noticed you have a few 401 errors, or whatever, or not working links,” usually it always triggered a response. I never talked about, “Oh, would you link to my article?” It was more like, “Hey, I noticed this great article. I noticed you had a few issues here.”
They were like, “Oh, thank you.” Now, if I would write back to them then, the chances to at least get a reply was already a lot higher. Even then, I felt it was, wow, it was a lot of work. I never wanted to get into actively paying people for links.
Relationships with people like you, or peers in our space, means you have a relationship. You meet each other, you like each other, you trust each other. If you then kind of reach out to someone and say, “Hey, I have this really great piece of content. I think it works for your audience. Would you help me out?” They’re much more likely to link and help you.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s such a good reminder that so much of business building or networking, if you want to call it that, whatever it would be, it’s kind of like relationship 101. It’s finding ways to be helpful before asking. It’s offering people value before asking them to do a favor. It sounds like that’s kind of some of the same things that you’re saying, is the importance of not just asking and expecting to do something.
I would assume that there’s a handful of people, maybe even the majority of people listening to this podcast, have received some of those emails. Like, “Hey, we’ve never met before. What do you think about linking to this article?” Like you said, maybe one in a thousand or something like that would actually work. So often, it just comes back to creating that incredible piece of content that is so valuable that in and of itself will be worth people sharing, because it is helpful for them.
If you have some of those relationships, that naturally they will be interested and share what you’re doing. Not because there’s a benefit to them, but because you are connected, and you’re friends, and you’ve helped each other out, then all the better. If it’s kind of this icing on the cake.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yeah. Even, you know, if you have zero relationships, you can always just reach out and do something nice. Mention a great blog post in your newsletter, or promote it on your site. Then, once you’ve done it a few times, reach out in a way. Chances are if the other site does their job well, they have seen that you are linked to them. If you leave with a positive example that benefits someone else, they’re much more open to what you have to say, and are also much more interested in helping you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You’re along this journey. You have this five year plan, you’ve put together a business plan. At what point do you feel like … Was that something you were able to achieve in five years? Did it take a little bit longer? Was it a little bit shorter? What did that look like when it played out and you looked back to when you first started? You said it was 2010, is that right?
Sven Raphael Schneider: That’s right, yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so 2015, was the five-year plan, were you able to hit that? What did it look like from a time perspective?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Actually, we hit that number a lot earlier. It always changed because when I made that plan, I wasn’t even thinking about physical products. A year in, I already had that idea, “Okay, let’s do some physical products.” Our brand was Gentleman’s Gazette, so it felt like, “This is more like newspaper-ish. It’s not a product name.”
Then, we thought about, “Okay, we need a separate brand. What does that look like? What do we want it to be?” We decided on Fort Belvedere.
My wife came up with the name. She always said, “We need something that is British country house.”
I was like, “Well, how is it connected to the clothes?” Fort Belvedere was the favorite home of the Duke of Windsor. He was a clothes horse and was very instrumental in developing the classic man’s style. That connection kind of worked for us.
Once we did that, we kind of underestimated in the beginning, what it would take to actually set up a physical product business. It’s not just a product development, and doing that. Since I like quality, I was very detail oriented. I looked at many different angles, and getting things only from the places where we can get the absolute best quality. That is more difficult than just sourcing everything from one supplier and then selling it.
Initially I thought, “Wow, we already have this audience. We have this community. If I produce a great, quality good, they will buy it.” Well, I was wrong. Like, yes, we had sales initially, but it wasn’t like this roaring, runaway, home run success that I had maybe anticipated in my dreams. It was more of a modest success. I realized the power of marketing and how even if you have a fantastic product, you’re not going to sell it if you have bad marketing. Ultimately, marketing is more important than the product.
Do I personally dislike that? Yes. But that doesn’t change how things work and how people buy things.
Bjork Ostrom: Idea being with that, to flesh that idea out a little bit more, because I think it’s important, that you can have an awesome product but if nobody knows about it, it doesn’t matter. You can have an average product, but if you have really incredible marketing, then you could potentially have a sustainable business. Ideally, the best-case scenario is incredible marketing and incredible product. Some would use examples of Apple. Really good marketers and really good product.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. When was that that you started to realize this significance and importance of marketing?
Sven Raphael Schneider: It was basically when it started selling. Even before, I thought about, “How do we market our things?” Again, this comes to the work once, and then harvest the benefits for others. We looked at marketing automation, very early on. InfusionSoft, at the time, there was no active campaign. A lot of those players, they weren’t around. There was MailChimp, simply sending emails, and there was something like InfusionSoft, where you can build in logic and you can send emails based on behavior. I found a company that integrated our Shoplet form, which was Magento, with InfusionSoft. You could even look at what they sold and what they bought.
I was very good at understand all the opportunities I had with those tools. At the same time, I underestimated how much time it would take to build all of it out, and how to utilize it. It’s a lot of learning by doing. You measure, realize it’s working or not, and then you change it and redo it. You repeat the procedure until you find something that works. When you find something that works, you see that it works. There’s no doubt about it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, in a lot of way I think it’s the difference between ready, aim, fire and ready, fire, aim. So much of this, this being building a business online, or creating a website, or building a following, is doing it and then seeing what it was like and analyzing what it was like to do it, adjusting, making a little improvement. That’s you are ready, you fire, then you’re like, “Wait a minute, I need to aim a little bit more.” Then you repeat the process.
As opposed to aiming until you are 99% sure that it’s a bullseye and then firing, because you’re going to be behind. If you have that feedback loop of jumping in, getting a feel for it, iterating, you’re going to be able to move a lot quicker and evolve a lot quicker.
The marketing automation piece. I think that’s an important thing for people to understand. We did an interview with Nathan Barry from ConvertKit. They have what would be maybe kind of email marketing. You talked about InfusionSoft. Is that something that you still use? When would somebody want to or need to use a tool like InfusionSoft for marketing automation?
Sven Raphael Schneider: I guess, it depends on what you do and what you want to have your customers or people who use your product to experience. For us, it was just using marketing automation helps us reduce the workload and creates a better experience for our customers. We can provided them with content that they want, at the time they want it; not just when I just blast it out to everyone, whenever that happens to be.
I think it really depends on what you’re … I would kind of reverse engineer and say, “What is my product? What am I trying to achieve? What is my goal?” Then try to find a tool that serves you best, in a price category that works for you. There are always tools that are just fantastic, but just not financially feasible to implement.
For us, InfusionSoft was really expensive at the time, and it worked. We’re actually still using it. We’ve looked at lot of other solutions now, and we may be switching because now we’re at the point where we can work with different companies at different budgets. We’re looking at HubSpot and Klaviyo. Klaviyo is specifically for eCommerce. But you’re comparing and seeing, “Okay, what works for me?”
Always start with a goal and then look at the tools. Don’t look at the tool and try to find a way to justify using it.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s really good. I think what can happen a lot of times, is we can hear somebody talk about a tool and then think, “Oh, I need that.” But it’s like just because you see somebody using a bulldozer and it looks really cool, you don’t think, “I need to go and buy that.” For some people, InfusionSoft is going to be a bulldozer, when all they need is a spade or something like that, something that isn’t as heavy of a lifter.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Exactly. You also have to understand, does it work for you? The way you think and the way you work? Sometimes, some tools are better with a graphical interface and they make it easy for you. Even if you have the best tool but they need so much work to set them up properly, but you don’t have help or you can’t do it yourself, it’s a total waste of time and money.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I remember that, specifically, when we were thinking of, we were setting up what’s called a, which helps us to manage HR and payroll and things like that. We previously were using a company called paychecks. Great company, but the user interface was so hard to navigate, and it was so confusing.
I tested out this company called Justworks, which has a great UI and it kind of has a startup feel to it. It was just super smooth. That was, for me, the deciding factor. It wasn’t the quality of the service. It wasn’t the features they offered. It was just the UI and, “Did I understand it as I navigated through it?” I think that’s a huge takeaway, really important.
On the marketing automation thing, just one more example. For Pinch of Yum, we use ActiveCampaign, which is similar, but also there’s some difference. It’s maybe a little bit more than we would need it for, but there’s some cool things you can do. I think you can do this with InfusionSoft, as well. You can let me know.
Let’s say if somebody visits a page, you can tag them as being interested in a certain category. That works great for Pinch of Yum. If somebody goes to a food photography page, we know that maybe they’re interested in recipes in generally, but they’re probably also interested in photography. Then they have a tag of being interested in photography in ActiveCampaign, which is a little bit more than you can do with some of the email marketing tools. If that’s something that’s interesting for you, podcast listener, that would be something that you can check out.
I’m guessing that you probably do similar things with clothing styles, or certain brands that they would check out, things along those lines?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes. You can do a lot, and platforms have evolved. There’s even like places like HubSpot where you can actually personalize the content based on the visitor who’s on the site. You could have, on every page, it could be, “Hey Bjork, nice to see that you’re back.” Then you get your content because it already sees that it’s you, because you’re tagged in all different ways.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow, that’s so cool.
Sven Raphael Schneider: It’s cool when you think about it. Then you think about, “Wow, it takes a lot of time to actually build all of this out. Do I or my team actually have the capacity to actually do that?” More often than not, I see a lot of cool features, but actually very simple eCommerce campaigns like, “Thank you for your first order. Get the second order.” “Thank you for your second order. Get the third order.” Some, “Hey, we haven’t seen you in a long time. Welcome back.”
There’s basic email campaigns. There’s like 10 or 15 in the beginning, all the people don’t have them set up. Even though their tools are amazing, but if you don’t put in the work, it’s not going to help you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, even a really basic one. If you’re just a content site and you have an email list, prioritizing or introducing your email readers to your most popular recipes. You can build an auto-responder series, so something that happens for everybody that signs up, that shows them your most popular pieces of content, and make sure that they see those. Those are the things you really want to showcase, your shining star, and making sure that those get plenty of attention and continue with the traction that they have.
One of the questions that I have for you, now that you’ve been at this for eight years, you have a team, you’ve learned a lot of things along the way, what do you feel like were the biggest moments? With any business, I feel like there’s a plateau and then there’s growth. Plateau and growth. Kind of these breakthrough moments. When you look back at the past eight years, what were the things that were most significant in figuring out the growth and increasing the traction that Gentleman’s Gazette had?
Sven Raphael Schneider: At first, it was actually getting the shop life and having all the logistics down. You know, working with a fulfillment center, making sure it all syncs. It syncs both ways. That the packages go out and that the customers are happy and that you can actually see, "Wow, this is working. This is something that is scalable, that is not dependent on me, the person-
Bjork Ostrom: Putting stuff in a box, yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes. That was like, I had learned it because I had sold stuff on eBay. I always hated bringing stuff to the post office. My wife hated shipping things. So from the get-go, we’re like, “We’re not going to ship any boxes.”
A lot of business start and like, “Hey, we’ll start out and then we’ll try to transition to something else.”
No! We knew from the get-go, “We’re never going to pack a single box because there are people out there who do that professionally at a cost that’s much lower than what we could do it for.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yep.
Sven Raphael Schneider: That includes the box, and it includes the tape, and it includes the cushioning material on the inside. And they could turn it around much quicker. And so for us it was just clear, hey, if we outsource this right away, we can scale. We can focus on what we really want to do, and we don’t have to worry about those technical things that we don’t really want to get into.
Bjork Ostrom: And can you, just at a high level, explain what a fulfillment center is and how that relationship works for the company that you work with?
Sven Raphael Schneider: So it’s a company. It’s like a big warehouse, and they ship packages for many different vendors. You just go to them, you talk to them, and just say, “Hey, do you integrate with my shop?” And if you both agree on something, then you would say, “Hey, for every order that comes in, I pay you $2, and for each additional product after two, I pay you another dollar.” So they know they get money for that.
And then there are two ways to do the shipping. Either you can have your own UPS account or FedEx account or you can use theirs. I found that using theirs is actually better because they send a lot more packages, so they get much lower prices than you would.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sven Raphael Schneider: And you can even build in a markup for them so they make money with you because I learned that too. It’s like with our first fulfillment center, they suggested pricing, but the pricing was not advantageous for them. So they just canceled our contract one month before Christmas.
Bjork Ostrom: Perfect timing.
Sven Raphael Schneider: We’re on the Nile cruise in Egypt and it was like-
Bjork Ostrom: Great internet access.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes, exactly. So that was very kind of stressful, but like often in business, if you have a mutually beneficial relationship and they make money, it’s great. For us it’s great because we pay less than if we had it in house, but we don’t have any of the risks if someone gets sick. That’s their problem. If we get a thousand orders overnight, they can manage it, and if someone gets sick there, they’ll hire someone new, and they’ll deal with all of that. And if there’s a big economic crisis tomorrow, I don’t have a warehouse to take care of, or pay a mortgage for, or pay rent for. I just scaled down and it’s all very scalable. So I really like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Again, my hope in having some of these conversations is to even open that door because I think for a lot of the people that listen to this podcast, myself included, we don’t think about that as a potential avenue for creating income online. And I know for you, it’s a huge part of what you do. You have these products, you have a shop, you’ve created a system around that, and have created a business around that, and that is possible in many different niches.
Obviously, it works really well for your niche because there’s lots of offerings that you can talk about and promote, but there’s lots of different categories that you could do this end. So I would encourage people to think critically. Hey, what would that look like? We’ve talked about on the podcast before the egg carton method. And if you haven’t listened to that episode, check that out, this idea of layering in different parts, different pieces of revenue and kind of, if you think of an egg carton, putting in each one of those eggs as a place holder.
Eventually, you’ll get up to the point where, if you have $500 here and $1,000 there, you can get to a point where you have this sustainable income from a business perspective. Obviously, some of those are going to be bigger than others, but it is possible, and it’s something that you can do.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I wanted to make sure that we have time to talk about, because you’ve done such a great job with it, and as I was preparing, I was making some notes about videos that I need to watch, but your YouTube and your videos. That’s something that I know that you’ve been building over the past few years, and would love to hear why you’ve been placing so much attention on YouTube and how that kind of fits into your business model.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Okay. Yes. So it all comes down to that same philosophy of building something out on a platform that allows us to harvest the proceeds later on. For us, over the past eight years, Google for example, has been very reliant, right? To me, Google is a little bit like, let’s say, Great Britain. There is the rule of law. You can invest your money there and you’re gonna get a return if you do it right. It’s not just going to change all the time.
In my experience, Facebook is more like Egypt. You don’t know if there’s going to be a new government in place and they’re going to change the rules all the time. I just didn’t want to invest a lot of time on something that can have changing rules tomorrow. If we’re fair, there isn’t a single platform that gives us a hundred percent reliability, and because of that, you diversify. Right? For us, the largest income stream is, by far, the shop. Nevertheless, we still run ads with AdThrive. We have affiliate marketing with Amazon. We get money from AdSense on YouTube ads.
So even if something happens in that, we don’t just put all our eggs in one basket. But YouTube for me was just something where I could see, wow, I film a video once, and I get views today, but I also could views a year from now and in two years from now. And when channels grow, it often happens that the videos actually get more views three years from now. Versus with Twitter, no one cares about your tweet from two weeks ago, and no one cares about your Instagram from two weeks ago, and no one cares about your Facebook posts from two weeks ago.
And we are regionally, I remember had great success on Facebook because it was a time when people didn’t really advertise much, and so it was like penny clicks, right? We would run ads on every single post for one cent, and when more people clicked on it, it was promoted more organically, and we generated a lot of traffic. And if we had a good picture, we could sometimes get a million views for that one picture. Did it always translate into sales? No. Right?
But what I saw was Facebook just changed the way they did things and all of a sudden, that wasn’t the case anymore. Your ads wouldn’t run any more. Everything would be more expensive, and you just couldn’t rely on it. And as soon as Facebook bought Instagram, we stopped doing any serious work on Instagram because we knew it would have the same fate as Facebook had for us. We just made a strategic decision to focus our efforts on YouTube because it made sense for our niche in the sense that people like to see clothing and how it looks. Right?
But also, it enables people to actually see you. They see you, they recognize you, they think they know you, they think you’re your friend, and they’re much more likely to end up purchasing from you. And when I walk around now, it doesn’t happen often, but regularly, people walk up to me, the grocery store, UPS or whatever and say, “Hey, Raphael. I watched your videos, they’re awesome.” That never happened when we wrote articles because people just didn’t put the face together.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sven Raphael Schneider: But when we did the video with a face in the video, not just the hands, but actually the person in there, it just creates a different form of connection.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s probably enough for you where you never feel like you can go out in sweatpants. Not that you ever would, but it’s like anywhere you go, you feel like, even if it’s one in 100 chance that somebody will recognize you, it’s like you kind of have to be on point wherever you go.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Oh yes. And I think a while ago, I went to kind of a presentation which was about your personal reputation. It’s like that today. Everyone has a phone, everyone has a cell phone. It’s like it takes one situation of bad judgment or maybe one bad day, and someone films that and puts it online, and it can ruin your reputation that you worked on over a decade. So yeah, knowing that and being able to deal with it without not being yourself is the key.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, absolutely. And would really encourage people to check some of those out because not only are they interesting videos, but also really well done. And the last thing that would be worth talking about that we were actually chatting about a bit before the podcast, I think this will be encouraging for people to hear, is how intentional you are with building out your calendar and then also recording and producing content ahead of time. So can you talk about your philosophy with that and why that’s an important thing for you?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yes. So for example, I know with a YouTube video, it’s a lot more difficult to produce than an article or a photo, and I probably should have mentioned it in the earlier question, but I like YouTube so much because it keeps out all the amateurs. It takes a lot of time to credit call the video. It costs money because you have to have the videographer, you have to have the editor, all those things, but all that makes it more difficult. So it keeps out the amateurs. So I know there are probably 100,000 Instagram channels who deal with men’s clothing. There may be 10 YouTube channels who deal with that topic.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sven Raphael Schneider: So that just … I’d rather compete in a space of 10 than 100,000, and it’s a lot easier to take a nice photo than to create a nice video, and it’s even harder to create nice video consistently. So being in that space is where I want to be. I want to be where it’s difficult, where I can shine. So because it takes so much time and things can happen, I can maybe get an ugly zit on my forehead. I can get a really bad cold so I can’t talk. I can maybe have an accident, or I may want to travel, or I may have a baby. Having a buffer just enables you to live more stress free.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Sven Raphael Schneider: And honestly, it’s super hard. I tried when I was still in my own. I tried to create an article buffer, but it was hard because I wasn’t structured enough.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. What you mean by that, not structured enough?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Well, I’m more of a big thinker. I’m a visionary. I think about where we can go. I’m not the best integrator at making things happen. My wife is the opposite. She’s more very structured, like spreadsheets. When we go on vacation, she has a spreadsheet and what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. And that’s the kind of person you need in addition to the person who has that vision.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sven Raphael Schneider: With either one of them, your business is not going to go very far.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: You need both. And if very few people can do both, and most people can do one or the other to varying decreased, basically. But that really helped. And now what we do is we basically, we sit down, it’s part of a meeting with a whole meeting routine and a whole structure. It’s called Traction. It’s a book by Gino Wickman, and he calls that system EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: It’s something that I first came across through an organization called EO, Entrepreneur’s Organization, but I also stumbled upon it in a business magazine in Minnesota, and they said that 51 percent of all businesses used EOS as their operating system, and it’s designed for businesses up to 250 people, I think, up to 50 or 100 million, which is us.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: And it will be us for the foreseeable future.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: So yeah. No, that has helped us a lot to get our ducks in a row and just sit down and say, “Okay, this is the quarterly content meeting. We’ll plan out all the content for the entire quarter. We know exactly what we have to do when. We can benchmark if we’re on track or off track,” and we don’t waste time every week discussing, what shall we do? And then when the next email comes with, oh, do you want to do a sponsored post about this? And yeah. Having the structure and having our core values defined, and what we want to do, and where we want you to go, helped us to be a lot more time efficient and productive.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s a book that I’ve heard people mention often. We’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes for people that are interested in it. Again, the book is Traction. And then EOS, is it entrepreneur’s operating system or entrepreneurial operating system? Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Exactly. It’s one of those.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay.
Sven Raphael Schneider: It doesn’t matter what the term is, what matters is that you implement it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Sven Raphael Schneider: And what I liked about this book versus many others is that it gave you a very clear step-by-step instruction on how to do it.
Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sven Raphael Schneider: It takes about most businesses two years and they use implementers and they cost like six to $10,000 a day to consult implement it, but sometimes it’s really helpful to have that outside person.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Everyone has to decide that on their own and what makes sense for them, but even if you can’t afford an implementer, just having that book and reading it and trying to do one thing every quarter helps tremendously.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. We’ll link to that in the show notes, and I love that idea of just having an operating system. A computer has an operating system, our phone has an operating system. Why not have an operating system for your business that you know kind of where things are, what the rules are, what does happen and what doesn’t happen when you do certain things, and how helpful that can be.
Raphael, what a great conversation and really appreciate you coming on the podcast. I know that people are going to take a lot of actionable stuff away from it, and would love to have people check out what you’re up to as well. So where can people follow along with you online and learn more about what you’re doing?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Yeah, gentlemansgazette.com or just type it into Google any way, shape, or form. It’s going to pop up, our YouTube channel, our website. Yeah, check it out. If you know someone or if you’re interested in classic men’s clothing and quality goods, maybe manners such as etiquettes, how to eat at the table or how to drink like a gentleman-
Bjork Ostrom: Which I was watching how to eat at the table, and you’ve had us over for dinner. And I actually saved the video because I want to go back and watch it and think, I hope I did all of the things that I needed to from a manner perspective when you hosted us at your house. So I’ll go and review and follow up with an apology if I didn’t implement any of it.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Very good. Very good. Please do.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks for coming on the podcast, Raphael. Really appreciate it.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Bye.
Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s that, friends. We hope you enjoyed this episode and were able to take away some helpful insights from this interview. And now, it’s time for our reviewer of the week. We love to feature our listeners and their blogs in this section of the episode because it’s just a simple way to thank you for reviewing and for listening each week.
So this week’s review comes from iTunes and it comes from someone with the username, Rosscito. And it says, “I hate when I’m all caught up and have to find something else to listen to. It’s the worst. This podcast has been everything for me while getting my macro friendly food blog up and running. So grateful for all of the relevant information and for Bjork and Lindsay who are obviously good friends of mine now. They never miss a workout or laundry folding session. It’s one-sided, but it’s fine.”
I love this review so much. It’s so true, though. The podcast gives us a chance to connect with you every week whenever you need something to listen to or whenever you want to learn something new. And for that, we are so grateful for this podcast and for you. So that’s it from us and from all of us here at FBP HQ. Make it a great week.
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