March 1, 2023

Why Building an Audience Isn't How to Start Your Business

Why Building an Audience Isn't How to Start Your Business

E20: In this episode, I talk to Jim James of the UnNoticed Entrepreneur Podcast about the struggles I had during the early days of launching my first business, Urban EDC. I also discuss a mini framework for those who are just starting out that will help you grow right off the bat. Lastly, I share with you the one thing every business needs to increase loyalty with your customer base and succeed over the long haul.

And of course, we end this episode with another question from our community about how to drive traffic effectively to a new brand's website to generate sales. My answer is probably not what you expect. Stay tuned until the end to find out!

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TOPICS:

How I Built An Audience (2:22)

Why Your Audience Are NOT Your Customers (4:11)

Why You Should Never Launch with Friends & Family (4:52)

Building Accountability Through Feedback Loops (6:49)

Strategies for Launching Your Brand (8:17)

Building Your Product Through Your Community (10:59)

How to Promote Your Brand in the Beginning (13:03)

Why B2B Marketing Is Different Than B2C (14:33)

Why Feedback Is Critical For Your Business (16:45)

Ask Me Anything (19:31)


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LINKS:

The UnNoticed Entrepreneur Podcast

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DESCRIPTION:
What do all world-class performers have in common? They solve the problem of growth. Join host Yong-Soo Chung each week as we simplify growth frameworks covering personal development, wealth-building, and business. Listen & follow!

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🔗 FOLLOW / REVIEW:
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🔗 JOIN MEMBERSHIP:
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🔗 CONNECT WITH YONG-SOO:
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ABOUT YONG-SOO:
Yong-Soo bootstrapped his business to near 8-figures over the past 7+ years. Now, he's on a mission to help entrepreneurs grow their business one week at a time. Join us!

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Our Portfolio Companies:
UrbanEDC.com
GrowthJet.com
SpottedByHumphrey.com

Transcript

Yong-Soo Chung:

What's going on everybody? Welcome to the First Class Founders podcast. My name is Yong-Soo Chung and I'm the founder of Urban EDC, an e-commerce brand serving everyday carry community, and GrowthJet, a Climate Neutral Certified third-party logistics company. For the past seven years, I built three companies in e-commerce, and now my goal is to help you build your business.

I was recently interviewed on another podcast and I enjoyed the conversation so much that I wanted to share it with you. In this episode, I talk about the struggles I had during the early days of launching my first business, Urban EDC. I also discussed a mini framework for those who are just starting out that will help you grow right off the bat. Lastly, I share with you the one thing every business needs to increase loyalty with your customer base and succeed over the long haul. And of course, we end this episode with another question from our community about how to drive traffic effectively to a new brand's website to generate sales. My answer is probably not what you expect. Stay tuned until the end to find out.

Now, let's head off to the UK and join Jim James of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur Podcast.

Jim James:

Hello and welcome to this episode of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James, here in the UK, and today we are going to San Francisco and we've got Yong-Soo Chung. Welcome to the show.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Thanks, Jim. I really appreciate being here.

Jim James:

Well, we appreciate having you because we're going to talk with you about how you can build an Instagram account with 10,000 followers and get no sales. We're going to talk about how you've managed to build an eight-figure business from scratch under Urban Everyday Carry, and we're going to help my fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs like me to understand how you can go from zero to hero, really from the ground up in a whole new area, first of all with consumer. And then we're going to talk about your new business in B2B and how that's so different, how you've been using word of mouth as well. So Yong-Soo, we've got a lot to cover. Thank you for coming on the show today. Let's talk about how you've managed to build Urban Everyday Carry from nothing into an eight-figure business using social media and the fear of missing out. Over to you.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Yeah. Urban EDC began in my tiny one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco in 2015. And prior to launching the shop, I created an Instagram account and essentially posted other people's posts and gave them credit of course. And I built a page of roughly about 10,000 followers. And so I thought I was ready to launch the shop with 10,000 followers. So I sat there, wrote out my newsletter. It was a Friday evening, so people were out doing whatever they were doing, but I was in my tiny one-bedroom apartment writing this newsletter. And then I sent it out and it was like crickets, just nothing. So that was really a humbling experience for me because I thought with 10,000 followers on Instagram, that would be enough of a potential customer base to be able to get, well at least one sale, but it was just nothing.

And then, well, I had a friend visiting me from out of town that weekend and we caught up on Sunday and he was asking me, "Hey, what have you been up to?" And I told him about the shop and without telling me, he actually made the first purchase. And so I got notification. I looked at it, I was like, "Wow, my first sale." And then I looked and it was from him. I was obviously very, very thankful for that purchase, but it was such a humbling experience because I built this page with 10,000 followers and it's my long-term high school friend that makes the first purchase.

Jim James:

I have to ask you, first of all, what did you do wrong? I mean, what was wrong with that 10,000 people? And then how did you recover? Because now you've got over 169,000 followers on Instagram, 80,000 email subscribers. So first of all, what was wrong with the list you built, and then how did you convert it into a business and grow it?

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think a common mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they build an audience and then they think that they can convert that audience into paying customers and it's not necessarily the case. And so when you first launch a business, you don't necessarily want to ask your friends to support you. I mean, that's great that you can get your friends to support you, your parents or whatever, but if they're not part of your core potential audience, their suggestions and feedback might actually put you back. It might hinder you from achieving your future goals because they're going to tell you one thing, but your core group of potential audience might actually not be thinking that way.

And so let's say if your wife tells you, "Hey, you're doing a great job, maybe you should do this instead." That's great. Obviously your wife is going to support you, but she may not actually know what your core customer really wants. And so your friends are actually not the ones that you want to take feedback from. And so actually, when I launched Urban EDC, I didn't ask my friends for feedback because I knew they were not part of my core audience in the future. So I kind of kept it quiet and I built this page of 10,000. I thought potential customers, but they didn't convert. And so every week we drop new inventory. What I did was each week with these feedback loops, just listen to the customers and just gather valuable feedback and slowly week by week we're able to hone in on what the customer really wants. And that's been how we were able to turn this around.

Jim James:

Okay. Yong-Soo, just clarify for people who aren't sure what EDC is, what kind of merchandise that you're selling and where are you selling it?

Yong-Soo Chung:

Absolutely. So EDC stands for Everyday Carry. And so these are things that you carry on a normal everyday basis. So your wallet, your phone, I could be carrying like a flashlight with you. A lot of people carry bottle openers. And so there's a really passionate community of everyday carry people who show off what they carry today. For example, they'll post a photo of what they're carrying and it's like a niche community, but they're very passionate about their gear.

Jim James:

All right. And so that first 10,000, they were people who were interested in the images you were posting, but not in the products you were selling. So you mentioned then that you started to build a feedback. Do you want to just tell us how did you do that and did you build some kind of methodology because you've got a team as well? Just share with us how did you do that in the structured way that I know that you've done?

Yong-Soo Chung:

So our company lives on Slack, which is a communication platform commonly used for businesses. And you want to have the feedback loops populate wherever your company lives. And so for us, that's Slack. And so what we did was use a simple survey company called Typeform, and we have the surveys ported directly into a separate Slack channel using Zapier, which is like an API integration platform. And so that way each time a survey comes in, it just goes right into that channel and everybody sees it. So you can't hide behind bad feedback. Everything just comes in.

Jim James:

And because you're not selling on Slack, where are you selling? On Amazon or you got Shopify or Etsy?

Yong-Soo Chung:

We have our own website, and we do use Shopify for our backend. And so we actually don't sell on Amazon or Etsy or any other channel. It's just from our own website.

Jim James:

Well, so you've managed to build over 80,000 email subscribers and a huge base of business. How have you got the word out then? Because if you are not part of the Amazon marketplace, where you've got that traffic, you've got your own domain name. Whilst that's a better protection in terms of piece of property, isn't it? You've got to do the work to get the traffic in. So do you want to just share with us how have you got potential customers, Every Day Carry people to come to the shop online?

Yong-Soo Chung:

Sure. So I have a little mini framework that I could present to your listeners.

Jim James:

Oh, yes, please. That'd be great.

Yong-Soo Chung:

I think the first step really when you are just starting out is to try to look for collaborators. So people that have audiences on their own that you could provide value and that they'll share it with their audience, and that will help you grow or at least get kickstarted into a certain level of audience. So you're kind of piggyback off of other people's audiences to reach a certain stage. That's the first step.

Now, the second step is looking at... Essentially you want to build a consistent brand and message. And so for us at Urban EDC, we have weekly gear drops that sell out very quickly. And so word got out that we're dropping this gear every week and they sell out literally within minutes or sometimes even a few seconds. And so people start talking. They tell their friends like, "Hey, this shop is... Can you believe that this sold out in five seconds? What are they selling?" And so you get people talking about your brand. And so once that starts happening, and this is step two of this little mini framework, you get your messaging out to others. So this also has to do with your own brand values. So if you have a very strong brand value in a certain industry, then people also will start talking about that. And so that's step two.

And then the final step is when someone subscribes to your emailing list or when they start following you on Instagram, they have a certain expectation of what they're going to get from you. So for us, we make it very clear that each Wednesday we have new inventory that's dropping and you're going to hear about it through our newsletter. And so that's an expectation that our customers have. And so we always without fail, provide that email on Wednesdays, and we always drop new gear on Wednesday. That way their expectations are met, we're delivering value to them, and it's all about consistency. So week after week, they're on the website because each Wednesday we're going to drop new gear. And so they are just waiting and they know... They've been trained almost to expect that from us. And so when you build that over time, that consistency really pounds into something much bigger.

Jim James:

Wow. So I'm talking here with Yong-Soo Chung, who's the founder and CEO of a company called Urban EDC. So now you've built this business up, you talk about the brand values. Do you want to give us an indication of what yours are, Urban EDC, because it sounds like a Gen Z-focused kind of proposition? You talk about dropping gear, so what would be your brand values that you're referring to and getting engagement with?

Yong-Soo Chung:

We want to empower designers and makers to really get their creativity out into the wild. And so we're really big on the community of Everyday Carry. And so we want to empower the next designer to be able to get their designs out and distribute that to thousands of millions of people. And so we want to provide that platform for someone who's just starting out, who has a really great design that's really catching a lot of hype to be able to do that. And so really just serving the community, that's what it's really about for brand building. Which community are you serving and how can you provide value to that community where others will talk about you in the context of our community?

Jim James:

So it sounds like you've actually got two communities there. You are not selling branded products from large FMCG brands, but rather from creators and designers, and you are matching them and connecting them with potential customers, is that right? Yong-Soo, you've really got two different communities to engage.

Yong-Soo Chung:

That is a good distinction. So there are two communities, but there are actually a lot of people in both communities. So someone that starts off as a consumer, they love the gear so much that they end up buying some machinery and they start making their own gear. This has happened so many times that I've seen people in the community just being an enthusiast to begin with, and then couple years later, they're making their own little bottle openers or whatnot, and they're starting to sell on their own. And that's been really cool to see that they've kind of... In a way, it's empowering entrepreneurship, Jim. They start off in an area where they're interested and then they themselves become the entrepreneur in that community.

Jim James:

Absolutely. And are these makers and designers mainly from the West Coast for example, or are they interacting with you from around the world?

Yong-Soo Chung:

They're everywhere. So they're makers across the world and some of the best makers are places that you would never imagine. And so it's really, in my opinion, important to get that creativity out of all sorts of different parts of the world because you just never know where that creativity is going to be.

Jim James:

Yeah, no, that's fantastic. And in terms of acquisition then for the makers, do you have a separate outreach program for them? Are you promoting yourself as a platform for them, for example, like on TikTok for example, or on Google? Is there a strategy separate to the one to get the customers in? You mentioned there's overlap, but do they have...

Yong-Soo Chung:

There's a separate process for that as well. When we first started, we would reach out to a lot of these makers, and each maker has their own size of audience. So going back to that mini framework that I discussed, we were reaching out to makers, trying to collaborate with them. And to be honest, most of them said no. Why would they even bother? We have nothing. Like what's in it for them? So in the beginning it was tough, but you work your way up and then eventually you get to a point where they're coming to you now. They're coming to us and saying, "Hey, how do I get my products listed in your shop? What's the process?" And so at that point, we are in a good spot at that point, and so we can actually handpick the makers that we want to collaborate with, and it's really important for us to be able to curate the best products from the most talented makers to serve our audience.

So it's kind of a balancing act between being open for anyone to be able to come in, but at the same time, we know that our customer base with these feedback loops that we have, we know what they're looking for, so we have to consistently deliver value on that. And so that's kind of the two marketplaces.

Jim James:

Yeah, very interesting and balancing the expectations, as you say with them both. Yong-Soo, I know you're an entrepreneur and changing subject just slightly, you've got another business in the B2B space. Just tell us about that business, but also from the perspective of the differences and the challenges of getting noticed for a business in B2B because it's quite different, isn't it?

Yong-Soo Chung:

It is. I have another business called GrowthJet, and GrowthJet is a Climate Neutral Certified logistics company. And so what that means is we offset all recovering footprint for 2020 and 2021. And so it's an area that in my opinion is lagging in that climate angle. And so we wanted to go in there and be a pioneer in that and say, "Hey, we're launching this with Climate Neutral Certification." We're actually the first third-party logistics company in the world to become Climate Neutral Certified. And so we went bold with that value with GrowthJet.

And the challenge is for B2B is different in that a lot of these companies love the fact that we care about the environment and all that. They don't share our name to other competitors or whatnot because it's kind of like their secret sauce. And so they don't want their competitors to go to us and say, "Hey, let's partner up," because they mention that they're Climate Neutral Certified fulfillment, but then they don't really mention our name specifically. So the biggest way for us to grow B2B that I've seen is word of mouth. So if we provide really good service and we constantly deliver on our value proposition. And so these guys, they'll talk to others internally and that's how we've been able to grow our GrowthJet.

Jim James:

Interesting, isn't it? Such different profiles of customers, one wants to show off what they've got as you've mentioned, and one wants to be very secretive, and yet they both need to be marketed to. As you're straddling these two different types of businesses, is it fair to ask you, what would you say would be a consistent piece of advice or a piece of advice that works across two different kinds of business model? Yong-Soo, is it fair to ask you that? I know you're an expert in both. Is it fair to ask you to try and articulate what might be almost a framework that works across both industry types?

Yong-Soo Chung:

Yep. I think the most important thing are these feedback loops. So you want to implement feedback loops where it keeps your entire team accountable and you can't hide behind them. So you will hear from the customers, whether or not they enjoy something or they didn't enjoy something. And the thing that really, really delights them is when you receive a piece of feedback and you actually implement it, so you actually cared enough to make that change, the customers just go crazy and they're just like, "Wow, I can't believe you actually listened to what I said and implemented it." And we've been able to build a loyal following just by listening to our customer. And like I mentioned at the very beginning of the episode, we listen to our customers each week and tweak something slightly each week, and that has allowed us to grow into a thing much bigger.

Jim James:

Yeah, I love that idea of consistency and incremental improvements consistently as opposed to revolution erratically. So that idea of consistency is fantastic. Yong-Soo Chung, if they wanted to find out more about you, how can they do that?

Yong-Soo Chung:

Yeah, you can find me on Twitter @YongSooChung, that's Y-O-N-G-S-O-O C-H-U-N-G. And I also launched a new business podcast and it's short 15, 20-minute episodes, and I actually go into what it's like being an eight-figure entrepreneur. It's concepts, frameworks, mental models, kind of all the little tools that I personally use on a daily basis to operate the business. So yeah, if you're interested, go check it out on the firstclassfounders.com.

Jim James:

Wonderful. Of course, I'll put those links in the show notes as always. Yong-Soo Chung, joining me from San Francisco, the CEO and founder of a company called Urban EDC. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Unnoticed Entrepreneurship.

Yong-Soo Chung:

Thanks so much, Jim. I really appreciate you inviting me onto the show and I had a great time.

Jim James:

Well, me too, and I learned so much from you, and obviously we're going to include all of these in the show notes. And for my fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs out there, I think obviously the key message about consistency and also about not giving up and maybe not listening to your wife as much as she, or your husband, depending on who you've got at home. So focus on the customers and that will eventually pay dividends.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James. And if you've enjoyed the show, do you please share it with the fellow entrepreneurs. If you've got the time, review it. And until we meet again, keep on communicating.

Yong-Soo Chung:

All right. I hope you all enjoyed that conversation with Jim James of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur Podcast. If you want to check out Jim's show, I'll link to it in the show notes.

Okay, it's time for this week's Ask Me Anything.

"I just launched a new brand and I'm looking to drive more traffic to my website. How do I approach this? What type of ads should I run?"

I love this question, so I'm going to answer this question by flipping the script. Instead of looking to run ads to drive traffic to your new website, you need to tackle this from the other side. Build a reputation within the community that you're serving. Once you build that reputation, get them to follow your journey through your social accounts or newsletter. Build trust by being vulnerable. Build your brand in public. Be brutally honest and share all the obstacles you have to overcome. Your potential customers will feel so much more connected to you than running ads to drive traffic to your site. Half the battle in selling is storytelling. Your customers aren't buying a product, they're actually buying your story. They're buying the relationship they have with you. You can certainly run ads alongside building relationships with your potential customers, but if you were to run ads, I would start posting content daily and see what type of content your audience resonates with.

If a post does well, you can put some marketing spend behind it because you know it's going to do well. If a post doesn't do as well, then great, you didn't waste any money on that post. The key is to treat your daily content posts like mini experiments, see what performs well, then boost those posts. I'll give you an example of this.

So Mark Manson is a blogger for over 10 years. His most viral successful post was titled: The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F. So he knew this topic resonated with his audience, so he expanded this blog post into an entire book, and this book became an instant New York Times bestseller. So he took 10 years worth of blog post and put all of his energy and resources behind his one most successful blog post, turning it into an incredibly successful book. My point is treat each piece of content as an opportunity to figure out what works. When you have enough data points, double down on the posts that did particularly well. Hope that answers your question, and that wraps up today's show. If you want to ask me a question like this, you can sign up for a membership at firstclassfounders.com/join.

In the next episode of First Class Founders, we're talking about your customer journey, and in particular, how to increase the lifetime value of your customers. We'll discuss how to use discovery platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, then build trust through your newsletter and podcast, then convert your audience into paying customers by creating a value letter for your business. Don't miss out on the next episode.

All right, one last request before we wrap up. If you're a new listener and you enjoyed this episode, you can follow the show up by going to firstclassfounders.com and clicking on your preferred podcast player. If you're a repeat listener, I would really appreciate a five-star review. This is a brand new podcast and every single review counts. Head over to firstclassfounders.com/review to leave us a five-star review. Thank you so much. If you want to connect with me, I would love to hear from you. You can follow me on Twitter @YongSooChung, and let me know if you enjoyed this episode. I take feedback very seriously, and I would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve First Class Founders. You can find links to all my social accounts in the show notes. All right, I'll see you in the next episode of First Class Founders.