E-Commerce secrets to scale

033 - Tips On Using A Facebook Group To Grow Your Business With Brent Weaver

033 – Tips On Using A Facebook Group To Grow Your Business With Brent Weaver

E-Commerce Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories and strategies of successful entrepreneurs and e-commerce professionals to uncover scaling secrets that will impact your online store.

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Tanner:

This week on the show, I have Brent Weaver, the CEO and founder of UGURUS. Brent is a successful serial entrepreneur, and he joins me to talk about the strategy that goes into creating a successful Facebook group for your business, as well as what not to do. I think you’ll find a lot of value in this episode. So stick around.

Welcome to the show. Brent, I’m really excited to have you on the show. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience.

Brent:

My name is Brent Weaver. I’m the CEO and founder of UGURUS. We are a business school coaching and training program for digital agency owners and I’m based here in Colorado in the U.S.

There’s 500 things that we did that we could have done better, but it was good times and good memories.

Tanner:

Awesome man. So how did your career get started? Can you tell us your story?

Brent:

Yeah. How long do we have Tanner? Are we here for a while we kick back and get the fire going here, a little chilly in Colorado. So you know, that’s what I’m thinking about is just being warm today. So I ran a digital agency at the time. It was a web design business in high school in 1999, a friend of mine and I. He was in lunch detention. I was just passing through to get a soda. And I had heard that he had made some money on the internet. I didn’t know how he did, but I was working at a fabric store. I was building some websites for PC gaming on the nights and weekends when I was supposed to be studying and I needed to pay for servers and couldn’t figure out a way to make enough money to pay for servers.

And so somebody suggested, well, maybe you should, you know, you’re doing this web design thing – maybe you should build websites for some businesses. So I heard he had made some money online went up to him. I mean, we were 17 at the time. So it was probably like, you know, Hey dude, what’s up you, you want to build some stuff on the internet. And so he came over after school and we started a company called Crystal Clear Designs, which evolved into several different businesses. A couple of, one of them got sold. One of them was you know very interesting side story. We don’t have to get into that today. And eventually we did turn that business into an agency called Hot Press Web. So from 1999, until about 2012 that was our business. That was of our core thing.

Went from the bedroom. No clients, did a $500 website, to when we sold the business – we had over 300 clients under active management, 14 full-time employees, plus a team of dozens of contractors around the world. We had clients like Adobe, Dish Network, Anheuser-Busch, InBev, and when we exited that business, I had started to do some coaching and training for agency owners. The last couple of years, we ran it. I was doing videos from our office and we decided to go full-time with that business. We were like, you know what, this could be its own thing. So we sold the agency and we focus purely on the training and coaching side of the business. Did some big projects with Adobe. And then, you know, that was in 2012. So we started UGURUS then. And I mean, at this point this business has been a seven figure business since the second year we were operating and we’ve helped thousands and thousands of people make more money with their digital agencies. And I think we’ve had a pretty big impact on the industry that we serve. So it’s been, it’s pretty cool.

Tanner:

That’s awesome, man. I always love to hear how all the humble beginnings. Right? And you somehow managed to turn something that you started in your bedroom into a million-dollar business, right?

Brent:

Oh dude, we had like, there was times with our agency in particular when we went full-time with it, that it was like, you know, scraping together money to buy mac and cheese. Right? And we really didn’t have any funding. We were resource poor and you know, time rich and we did any kind of web jobs that we could get our hands on and worked for dollars per hour just to get those initial clients and totally over-delivered. And there’s 500 things that we did that we could have done better, but it was good times and good memories.

Your positioning and who you’re targeting in your market has more to do with who your clients are than your experience.

Tanner:

So what would you say is, or were some of your biggest obstacles trying to grow that business?

Brent:

I mean, I’d say two things, just looking back on it. One would be strategy. And when I say strategy, what I mean is where we were going to look for clients. What we understood our worth to be at the time, we really were just trying to find clients at the time. It was like on Craigslist or anybody that we, you know, we were basically putting out like a help, wanted ads, right? For our business. And I think that we didn’t want to, we didn’t think that we could go after big companies because we didn’t yet have the experience. But the types of stuff that we were building, the problems we were solving were the same problems that a lot of big companies were having building websites and apps and things like that. But, you know, we kind of went after these very small business clients initially because we just didn’t have the confidence.

Brent:

And I think to some extent, my second thing I was going to tell you was mindset. That we just had this mindset that what we were was not worth a lot of money, not because it wasn’t, but because of the people we were talking to didn’t have a lot of money to invest. I remember one of the very first clients we got in Colorado was this you know, kind of solopreneur jewelry company. And she wanted to sell her jewelry online. And we built an e-commerce system basically from scratch to help her sell her stuff online. And it was like a $3,000 project. And it was never like there was never enough features for her. It was never perfect. I mean, scope creep up the wazoo and really that same system that we built for her, you know, we could have sold that same scope of work to a more successful company for five or six figures.

And I think it took us years to figure that out that your positioning and who you’re targeting in your market has more to do with who your clients are than your experience. If we would have gone out and targeted really successful brands and gotten to know them and gotten to understand their internet problems. I mean, I think that they would have been just as likely to hire us as some small business, because they all had the same problems. They were just trying to sell products online, except they probably would have had tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay us with. And so, you know, that probably is an expensive lesson is just, you know, going after the bottom 10% of a market, because that’s where your confidence is – versus saying, you know, screw it. Let’s just start with the top 10%. Let’s start with the businesses that are really successful and let’s help them. And when we started to figure that out, I think our rates started going up dramatically. And honestly our headaches started going down because clients had more realistic expectations and that made our business a lot better.

Tanner:

Yeah. It’s funny that you mentioned that because I literally experienced the same exact thing. When I started my business, my focus was small businesses. And then I quickly found out that small businesses did not have any money and that it was just a waste of time. And then, and I agree with you, it’s definitely a confidence thing. You know, as soon as we were able to get the confidence we needed to go after bigger accounts, you know, the size of our company actually proved to be an advantage because the service is so much better than what these other bigger agencies can offer.

Let’s not reinvent the wheel.

Tanner:

So Brent, what would you attribute your success to over the years?

Brent:

Mm, I think, I mean probably a lot of people will say persistence. I think that I have been committed to the entrepreneur direction since I left college. And it hasn’t really felt like a choice necessarily to me, it’s just kind of who I am and how I operate. Like I like having my own business. I like being able to create my own stuff and kind of do my own thing. So I think having some level of persistence in my business has paid off in a really big way. I think if you look at, you know, some of the work that we did, where we weren’t as successful as we wanted in the short term, like eventually we kind of figured it out, right? We kept kind of plugging away and working on it, you know, eight hours a day, five days a week, six days a week, whatever.

And I think over a long enough timeline that has played in my favor. The other thing that probably was influential in our current company success has been our ability to step back and kind of focus on less, fewer things, but make them better. And even today as I say that I’m like identifying things in my business right now that we feel like we’re a little bit spread thin in certain areas. But I think when we – I’ll give you a story, when we scaled our first real successful coaching program, it was called 10K Bootcamp. We ran a pilot of the program. It was helping web designers and agency owners sell their first $10,000 project over 10 weeks. And we had 27 people join us for that program. It was really successful in that we helped, I mean, the people that went through it were like totally changed and it was like massive for them.

And at the end of it, you know, they were like, Oh, what’s next? And we were kind of like, what’s next? Right? And we went and we were like, Oh, what’s the next program that we should create and launch? And we came up with some ideas and we’re like, okay cool, let’s go back to these people and let’s sell them this next program. And we like almost left our strategic planning, meeting that quarter. We were going to go and build another program. And at the very last minute, literally, like we had two days of strategic planning on day one, we decided that we’re going to head this direction and we’re going to come in and day two and plan it out. And I came in on day two after having kind of like this middle of the night, wake up moment.

And I was like, what if we just did the same thing again and we got other people, like we went out and got 27 other digital agencies to go through the same program? Or maybe let’s get crazy. Let’s have 50 agencies go through that exact same program and let’s make a couple of tweaks to it, but let’s not reinvent the wheel. At the time my wife was literally like a month away from having our first child. So I’m not going to lie that probably played a little bit into it. I was like, when the heck am I going to create a whole new program? Let’s just sell the same thing again. And we did it, we got 50 people in the program. By the end of the year, we offered it a third time to our list and we got 120 people into the program that time.

And to date, we’ve had over 1500 people go through that program. So when I look at that, I go, man, like how many times do we think that the solution is to add more stuff versus, you know, just kind of do the same thing over and over again. And I think, and this happens, I wrote a whole book on it’s called get rich in the deep end. It’s about how to get to be successful in niches. And I think a lot of people underestimate the amount of opportunity that, that is out there in a market. And the amount of opportunity there is for like one really focused thing. And instead of just staying focused on that thing, because they don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust the market to be able to deliver the value on that one thing. They add stuff to it.

Brent:

And, so dude, I look at it and I go, I mean, we could have our trajectory would have been totally different. Versus, cause the hard stuff is going out there and finding that next 50 people to buy the same thing. Like it’s scary and solving some of those marketing problems and those sales problems. I mean, at one point we had, we were spending $50,000 a month on Facebook ads for bootcamp. We had two salespeople running full-time on that program. We were assigning 50 clients a month for that program. And that infrastructure was wildly different than the infrastructure we would have needed to create program after program, after program. And we probably wouldn’t even have sold those programs very successfully because it was like every time the value proposition was changing every time the like, you know, the market of who wants that thing is changing. Like, you know, what do we, what do we write about what channels are gonna work for us to acquire those customers? Whereas like when you have one thing to sell, it creates a lot more, there are sometimes more difficult problems, but like the outcome can be wildly more successful.

You’re probably mediocre at like 10 things that you just offered this client and they’re going to figure that out eventually.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, I couldn’t agree with you more. You know, I think the things naturally a lot of business owners spread themselves thin when it comes to what their next move is. Specifically digital marketing agencies have the tendency to just keep adding services they’re offering until, you know, sooner or later they’re a full-service agency and they have all these different things they have to worry about. And so, you know, it’s better to just specialize, like you said, niche down, focus on a very niche market and it’s way easier, right? Because you’re just replicating the same thing and it’s predictable at that point too.

Brent:

I mean, I cringe, I serve digital agency owners, Tanner. I mean, that’s my, I live in breathe agency world, and anytime I ever hear somebody say full service agency, I just, I cringe dude. And I understand the desire to be a full service to tell somebody we’re going to be your one-stop shop for all of your needs. And it brings up this quote, a mentor of mine, Craig Ballantine has just like hammered in my head. You know, short-term gain, long-term pain versus short-term pain, long-term gain and telling somebody that you’re a full service agency. I couldn’t tell you something that’s more in the bucket of short-term gain long-term pain, because you’re essentially trying to sell to tell the clients like, don’t worry, whatever your need is, we’ve got you. Which sounds great in the short term.

It sounds amazing if the client’s like, Oh wow, we can just hire you and we don’t have to hire anybody else. And for you as an agency owner, it helps you to close a deal that you probably shouldn’t have otherwise closed. Like you’re probably mediocre at like 10 things that you just offered this client and they’re going to figure that out eventually, right? Maybe it’s on month six or seven of your retainer versus not hiring you for that at all. Which could lead to you having an unhappy customer or probably what ends up happening for most agency owners is they end up doing their best to deliver all that stuff. And they just don’t, they work nights and weekends and they don’t sleep well and they’re stressed out and they’re frustrated and they’re constantly burned out.

Because basically they’re telling everybody that they can do whatever they want all the time, which means, you know, I’m sure if you have any agency owners listening, they’re like, Oh my God, he’s in my head. Right. Cause it’s like you’re telling people that you can do everything, which means you can’t create systems. You can’t create processes. You’re constantly trying to find new resources and it’s a mess versus saying, look, we do like this one thing really well, you know? And not only that, but it’s like one thing really well, for one really tightly defined person or niche.

Tanner:

Yeah. And at the end of the day, you really can’t differentiate yourself if you do everything and everything, because we very much live in a world that rewards specialization and over just general offerings. Right?

Brent:

Yeah, totally. I mean, I would say, you know, I could write a book on it. I did write a book on it and you know, it’s out there. And it’s definitely a big part of my thesis.

It’s always been something where people are, it’s where their attention already is.

Tanner:

So Brian, the reason I brought you on the show is because I’d like to talk about building an audience with Facebook groups. You have one that’s for your business. Can you walk us through how you built it and how you continue to grow it?

Brent:

We have two Facebook groups. We have one for our clients that we’ve been running for many, many years. I think we launched that group in 2014, something like that. And it’s been a key part of how we communicate with our clients and how we support them. So just using it as kind of a space for general ongoing support. I think that with Facebook in particular the big draw is 1. their feature set is really awesome for content creators. It’s really easy to create different types of content, video you know, tech stuff. But more importantly, it’s where people are at and we’ve tried to create community in other platforms and it’s never worked as good as Facebook. And I think that maybe some of that’s changing right now, but it’s always been something where people are, it’s where their attention already is and therefore we get a lot better group engagement than when we have them go to like a membership portal. And they log in there once every two months and they kind of sometimes engage while we can get better. Like we can control that environment better. And we don’t have all the distractions of other companies like marketing to our people at the same time. It you know, it’s limiting in that people just aren’t there as much. So that’s been a big draw for us with Facebook groups. Back in July of this past year, we launched our first free Facebook group, meaning that it’s something that non-clients can join, it’s called Profitable Digital Agencies. And that’s been really interesting. I resisted a free group for many years. I just didn’t want to deal with it.

I didn’t want to have to figure out how to differentiate it from our paid group. But we’re starting to figure that out. And actually this last couple of weeks, the group’s kind of been exploding. We’ve doubled our membership in the last month-ish, and we think that that’s going to definitely continue. So we definitely have figured some stuff out on the marketing side of the group. And I think we just got really serious about marketing it and we kind of had created it. We’d emailed our list a few times, grew to a few hundred and are now putting a more aggressive ad advertising campaign behind the group. And it seems to be working very well.

Tanner:

That’s awesome, man. So what’s the learning curve like with that? And how much time do you think you invest each week in just making sure that you’re staying on the right track?

Brent:

So I actually personally only invest about an hour a week. I do have other team members that run the group and also run our advertising. So I’d say in general, you know, they’re may be spending more like five to 10 to, we have, you know, more resources that are on that. So, I’d say overall as a company, we’re probably spending 20 hours a month or sorry, 20 hours a week, probably doing stuff around the Facebook group. Whether that’s promoting it, tweaking ads, those types of things you know, reaching out to members of the group, connecting with them, learning about them. I mean, all that kind of stuff. I mean, we’re definitely putting a lot of energy into curating kind of the membership list of the group.

In terms of like content and things like that, you know, a few hours a week. I think we’re also looking at doing some new things with our group now that it’s starting to get some steam on the membership side, which I’m really excited about. Actually for a little while I was like not super pumped about the group, cause it really wasn’t growing that fast and we weren’t seeing much in terms of traction, but now in the last couple of months it’s kind of started taking off. And so I think we’ll be seeing, probably putting some more resources into content development for the group, which I’m super excited about.

Make sure that the group is labeled around your audience.

Tanner:

And I’m sure your persistence has had a lot to do with the success of the group. What are some important aspects of making sure that you’re attracting the right audience for your Facebook group?

Brent:

I mean first all, I think just making sure that the group is labeled around your audience. I mean, that’s something that we made a choice around instead of calling it like the UGURUS Facebook group, right? Or you know, grow your agency with UGURUS. Instead of making it branded, we kind of went with a more focused market-based approach. So, you know, profitable digital agencies was kind of an outcome plus who our target avatar is. And so I think that was something that we were kind of advised and coached on and I think has worked well for us and hopefully will work well for us once we get some really good group momentum. So when people see suggested and recommended groups, they’re not having to read the description to understand what the heck the group is about.

Brent:

So that’s definitely really important. And then you know, I think just making sure that you’re promoting it and putting the group in front of the right people. So we haven’t actually relied much on Facebook’s recommendation algorithm. Our group hasn’t hit the thousands yet. I think we’re probably going to break a thousand this week or next week. I think it will start to be shown more in their recommendations engine. But you know, so we’ve had to then think a lot more, you know, specifically about like who we want in our group, use our other lists on email and advertising to get those people in there. So we use a lot of demographic constraints, we use the lookalike audiences, we look at our customers and we try to get people into the group from, from those channels.

Tanner:

And I would also like to mention that it’s probably better that you don’t use a branded group name. Right? Because, you know, if they see a brand associated with it, they’re probably just going to think, Oh, I’m just going to get offer after offer and to get sold to a lot.

Brent:

Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, like you got to make money as a business. I mean, you gotta put some offers in there or have some kind of path to a customer for those free stuff, but I think you’re absolutely right. I think both in confusing people and also potentially discouraging people that they realize, Oh, wow, this is about being a part of this company versus like about an idea. And so I think that and I can actually relate this to, we’ve had an industry event that we’ve done for our company called U Summit for the last four or five years. And, you know, we did go with the branded term, like U Summit doesn’t mean anything to people, but we we’ve created a meaning with people around that idea. It is very much an event about our programs and our company.

And I think that was very different than approaches that other companies have taken like tracking conversion from digital marketer. Like they created an event around an idea. And I think that it’s contributed a lot to their success. Now, we very much consciously chose that direction. But I think, you know, if we were to go create a new event for our niche, that we really wanted to grow beyond ourselves, like U Summit will always be an amazing event for our customers and our clients and our in our community. But it doesn’t represent something in our industry, like for our industry. And that was a very conscious choice. So if your goal is that you want to create your own community of people, that’s really all about your thing, then definitely brand it, something that’s your own. If you want to create something that can stand on its own two feet and kind of has the potential to become something that’s really greater than you are, then I think I would definitely encourage you away from, you know, any kind of branded terms with your group name.

Less, but better.

Tanner:

Yeah. And that makes a lot of sense. So, so Brett, now that you’re at a point where you’re, you know, you’re increasing your engagement and your activity inside your group, I mean, what are some ways to make sure that, you know, the active activity and engagement is increasing?

Brent:

Well, I can tell you what some things to not do are and maybe that plays into this. Right? I think that we had an idea engagement cadence that might have been a little bit hot and heavy. We were doing like two or three posts a day, and I think that was probably too much. And you know, it is what it is, right? We did that for six months or so we, you know, I think that it helped to create, we do a lot of the marketing content that we were creating and we kind of repurposed it in the group. I think that where we’re at now is we want to do less content, maybe two or three posts a week. We were also were posting like a welcome post frequently and some other stuff that was kind of repetitive.

And we were changing some of our strategies around that. So I think with a group, what we’ve learned is probably less is better. Less, but better, you know, do fewer original posts in your group and make them like a really high quality kind of like just total banger pieces of content. And so when we’ve looked at the content that we’ve invested a lot of energy into and we’ve posted that into our group, that’s like highly resource driven and it gets the engagement, it gets the attention. But then, I think it’s really easy to create content that people kind of start to tune out and then that can damage the success of that group. If people turn off notifications things like that, then that’s not a good thing.

The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.

Tanner:

Yeah, definitely. So, Brent, what are your secrets to scale?

Brent:

You know, I’ll steal this quote from Verne Harnish. He stole it from somebody else. It’s the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. And I think that if you’re looking to scale your business, you cannot scale complexity. It has to be simple. Simple scales. And so if you feel like your offer is complicated, if you have a lot of moving parts, if it’s hard for other people to understand what you do or who you serve, then it’s not going to scale. And so I think it has to be simple. It has to be clear. It has to almost look like it’s so fricking easy that it’s just like, ridiculous, like that that’s, what’s going to scale for people. And once you’ve found that thing, I’d go back to that quote. The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. Stop looking at new ideas, stop looking at shiny objects. If it’s not serving that main thing, then it probably needs to, you need to get rid of it.

Tanner:

Yeah. I really love that. And Brent, I really want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you think might benefit the audience?

Brent:

You know, I think being clear you know, why people want to have a Facebook group if that’s kind of your focus. So if you’re helping people with groups, just be really clear about what their outcome is and make sure that there’s some kind of path to an ROI. I think groups and stuff sound like a great idea on paper and they’re fun, and they can be a rush to get the engagement and to get people following you and having conversations with you. But at the end of the day, it takes time and energy to answer questions and to post content and if you’re not seeing an ROI on that, then it’s not going to be a long lived project. So I always tell people like, you know, make sure there’s a business model somewhere in this thing. Don’t just hope that one day it’ll appear. Start from day one with a good model. And I think you’ll be successful.

Tanner:

Yeah. I really love that. So, Brent, what’s a good way for anyone listening, get in contact with you?

Brent:

Sure. If you’re a digital agency we’d love to hear from you. I’ve got a couple of free courses. One’s our web design sales kit. And we’ve got a couple of others that I can make available to you and your listeners. Usually we charge a couple hundred bucks for those, but if you shoot me an email, [email protected], happy to hook you up with one of our paid courses for free. So just, yeah, drop me an email [email protected]

Tanner:

Awesome, man. We’ll make sure to link that up in the show notes as well as link to your website. And thank you again, Brent.

Brent:

Awesome. Thanks Tanner.

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