DTC 19: 📦 Look directly at this light ⚡️
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

Greetings from a blustery and rainy Pacific Northwest. 


(Seems fitting as we batten down the hatches and get ready for next week’s Black Friday Cyber Monday storm 🌪)


Welcome to new joiners Adidas, Omigo, CEG Talent, ConsciousPartners, Dovico, Estra Home and Dancer.com


(Did a good friend forward this to you? If so, be sure to subscribe here)


Here’s what you’ll find in this week’s delivery:


📦 Learn a content first ads scaling strategy that earned Dave Huffman a seat in the DTC Boardroom

📦 The DTC ‘Mary Poppins’ Brenda Mendez delivers operations insights for high-growth brands

📦 Relive Pilouthouse’s journey from 17-74 staff and learn the "people ops" that helped them get there

📦 A quick-hitting under-the-hood look at what Pilothouse media buyers are doing RIGHT NOW to prepare for BFCM

📦 A quiet soft-launch of the next evolution of DTC (+ a special offer for the first 100 joiners)


You’ll want to stay til the end to find out what Kyle and I have been listening to to fuel our brainstorm and writing sessions -- could be a good new find to power the next few weeks of madness 🎧

Some people, like Dave Huffman from Microbe Formulas have so much to give, we had to invent a new thing called DTC Boardroom.


DTC Boardroom is a new series of posts from past DTC Podcast guests where they lay out exactly what’s working for them in customer acquisition and business growth right now. 


Board Members like Dave will also be foundational members of the DTC+ community, eventually joining us in exotic locations for incredible masterminds 🏝🤞


Our podcast back in July was a masterclass in supplement marketing (one of the hardest niches to stand out with), and he’s back to provide a content first, Facebook Ads strategy that has produced some incredible results over the past few months. 


3-Stage Content First Facebook Ads Scaling Process


Sometime around mid-year, I had a challenge. 


We were growing fast, going from $8MM to $32MM. My team went from 1 to 20, and I was still running ads. 


I didn’t have time. At all. I also wasn’t ready for an agency.




How could I take people from totally unaware to product aware, profitably, over the long haul, while remaining compliant, not spending hours per week inside the account, and not hiring someone?


What I came up with is a foundational 3-stage process that starts with content to test and validate topics, then scales with winning content repurposed as video to product pages with an offer. 


The Result?

After testing for 60 days, for all cold audience prospecting, we’ve spent $75K for a 2.48 ROAS on 7-day window and a 3.61 ROAS on a 28-day. 


Now before you get all pokin’ holes - what about this and what about that - yes, I know this isn’t perfect, we’re still testing and iterating. 


Point is, it works (so far) and you can use it to turn-key test a similar approach and maybe develop your own over time. 


⛹️‍♂️ The Process


I’m a Kolbe-A Quickstart 9, I like to run and gun, so I usually don’t develop process flows like this. In fact, this one is about as bare minimum as you can get. If you want a process flow go here. It’s not sexy, but it works


Note: I’ve included a retargeting flow in the diagram. We haven’t tested that as part of this process just yet. Proceed at your own risk or feel free to dream up your own.


Download "the Process"


Stage 1: Test content topics 


Here we’re simply testing to see which topics most resonate with the unaware. 


Do they get clicks? Engagement?


All we’re doing here is literally testing to see if people in some of our best performing audiences will click and/or engage with the content. 


I optimized for traffic/landing page views because we want to see if the topics resonate with those most likely to click and read the content. 


If so, we graduate to Stage 2 and see if it holds to bigger audiences. 


Stage 2: Validate winners


If the topics resonated with the best performing cuts of our audience, let’s widen the pool and see if performance holds. 


Let’s also change to purchase objective in order to give ourselves an earlier chance at a sale and start building retargeting pools of people more likely to make a purchase...

Stage 3: Repurpose and scale 


At this stage, we’ve got content that we know resonates that also happens to be aligned with specific products. 


To scale this profitably, we’ll repurpose the content into bite-sized buzzfeed-style chunks and make a product/coupon code offer at the end. 


If you don’t have a video team, use a tool like Biteable to do this efficiently. 


Before I got my video team involved, I was making these in 20-30 minutes by taking the top 3-5 points from an article and dropping them into a Biteable template, then ending with a product aligned with the content and a product specific coupon code. 

At this stage, if ads do not meet KPI, do not kill them. They’ve made it this far, so you know the content is good. You may just need to test thumbnails, video sequencing, or your landing page/offer. See the diagram for a decision tree.


How I Did This Without Spending Hours in the Account


Ok, now remember the part where I didn’t have time to spend "hours per week in the account"?


Here’s the best part...


I literally handed this off to a customer support rep who had never run any kind of ads before. 


Nothing. Never spent a dime. Never saw the inside of a FB ads manager and ended up spending $75K at a 3.61 ROAS his first two months out of the gate. 


What he DID have though is two important characteristics:

  1. He is VERY knowledgeable about our products and customer 
  2. Interested in learning FB ads 

I created the process, loaded the first ads as examples, he now runs all 3 stages, we check in weekly and I spot check the campaigns every 72 hours. 


Questions? Shoot me an email dave@microbeformulas.com

 or find me on DTC+

A thoughtful shipping strategy is critical to the success of any eCommerce venture. The right shipping approach ensures customers promptly receive orders intact at a fair price, but it requires a savvy and intentional plan. Let’s take a look at a few tactics to ship online better, faster, and cheaper.


Cost Factors


Delivering products to customers can be a great expense, but you have more control over it than you might think. A few factors that affect the cost of shipping include:


Weight and Volume


‍E-commerce shipping costs are extremely contingent on two product metrics, weight and volume. These are valuable facts to know when it comes to negotiating with your shipping partners and calculating your product pricing.


You can also take control over these measurements. By keeping your packages as lightweight and slender as possible, you and your customers both pay less for shipping, driving more sales and greater profit.




Shipping location is the third variable, in addition to weight and volume, in shipping costs. In general, the further a package must travel, the more costly the shipping. More precisely though, shipping zones, which are geographic regions that comprise clusters of zip codes, determine shipping costs.


Keep reading this article here for more tips on how how to nail your eCommerce shipping strategy!

Ops for Growth with Snow’s Brenda Mendez

Looking for growth support? Building a brand? Need an ops overhaul? 


Talk to Brenda Mendez, former COO of Snow Teeth Whitening and Branding and Marketing Specialist.  


This force to be reckoned with problem solver and ops mastermind is ready to roll up her sleeves and help. She specializes in building ops to alleviate pain points utilizing her lived experience and no-nonsense analytical approach to streamline your business. 


She’s basically business Mary Poppins. She wants to set up your business for success - so much so that you don’t need her anymore. Maybe a business Ghostbuster? 👻🚫


(...we’ll work on our analogy.)


In the meantime, here are some highlights from the pod


Approachable Ops 


Strong foundations start with operations and systems. Brenda’s rule of thumb? Anyone should walk in the door and immediately understand how your system works and why it’s in place. No guessing games. Only clarity. 


3 Pillars for Growth 


Whether you’re growing a product, persona or service, Brenda uses this three-pillar framework to develop and elevate brands. 

  • Brand Equity - think about what you need to create from a brand perspective - obtain IP’s, IG handles, domains - everything you need for a seamless brand appearance across platforms. 
  • Community - investigate your customer journey seeking out any lost opportunities to convert. How are you talking to your customers? What rewards/loyalty program do you have in place? What is your follow up process? How are you retaining their business? Be customer-centric in all things and develop an experience that will emotionally evoke the customer.
  • Associations - who do customers associate with your business? Whether pursuing influencer campaigns or retail opportunities - consider how your brand pairs with the brand you’re partnering with and whether or not this partnership maintains your brand’s integrity.

Bypass Burnout 


Creating and scaling a DTC business is a major undertaking that requires serious mental stamina. Prioritizing your mental health is a must. Here are some tools Brenda employs (based on personal experience with burnout after a significant push when taking Snow to retail) 

  • Self Audit - Understand where you’re going and why. If you don’t have discipline and control as to where you want to take your company, it will grow into an unwieldy beast. You need to hone in on why you’re doing it, where you’re going, and how to prioritize your needs and values. 
  • 5 Non-Negotiables - Articulate five non-negotiables for your mental health, and book time for them in your calendar. Is it yoga? Going for a run? Facetime-ing your Mum? Make things that fill your cup non-negotiable to preserve your mental and emotional health. 
  • Communication Waterfall - As a founder, you only have so much bandwidth - preserve it! Brenda recommends setting up a system of stops and boundaries that empower your team to seek answers themselves before bringing it to your desk (Have you checked the google drive? Have you brought this to your manager? Have you googled it?). 

Watch or listen to the full pod for more, including how not to be a bottleneck, how to best activate different influencer tiers, and why rebrands aren’t as scary as they sound.

All Killer No Filler: How to Grow a Digital Agency

This one is for our agency pals! The latest All Killer No Filler episode features the Pilothouse exec team debriefing on their massive growth year, providing insight and insider tips for other agencies on the upward swing. 


Take a listen as the team talks highs, lows, hiccups and victories, sharing how they kept our team aligned and motivated while growing from 16 to 74 employees in eight months. 


🚀 Value Rocket: Only profit when your clients’ profit

If you’re running an agency, set up your model so that you only profit when your clients’ profit. 


Agency Marketing relies on talented staff, and you’ve got to cover those costs -- that's what your retainer does in an ideal world. 


But for growth, Pilothouse turns to its roots in the affiliate marketing world, where performance fuels everything. If you can create incentives that align from the client through to the staff who works on the account, you’ll engrain into the culture that you get paid when you win, and you bleed when you lose. Your agency will thrive in an environment that rewards ambitions.


How to keep your team motivated and aligned while scaling? 


Here are people ops tools the Pilothouse exec team have found invaluable: 


💥 Hire entrepreneurs - Many businesses are scared to hire people who have their own goals and aspirations, but as long as your company aligns with their goals/aspirations, you’re both going to get so much farther than you would alone. Entrepreneurs want to solve problems and crack the code - they aren’t rule-followers, and this think-outside-the-box mindset will work to your advantage. These are the types of brains you want on your team. 


When employees have their own things going on, it prevents burnout and resentment - they’re more likely to stay on and grow with your company when they feel supported. As Kyle H. puts it, it's all about an abundance mindset - make it known that you want to be a partner in their growth, support your players and give them everything they need to win. 


💥 Culture first  - Bring in talent that you believe in and trust from the beginning. It often comes down to a gut check during the screening process - is it taking a lot of energy to chat with this person? Are they a good storyteller? No? Clients like story-tellers so...Can you see them meshing well with your team? Prioritize attitude, regardless of expertise. 


💥 Hyper-communication - In our current remote work reality, it’s common to feel isolated and disconnected, and lots of employees are suffering in silence. Break this cycle by imbuing hyper-communication and transparency as a core company principle. At Pilothouse, we’re all slack all the time. That way, the team feels heard, there’s a sense of camaraderie, and you have the information you need to support in problem-solving.  


💥Victory laps - Celebrate your wins publicly within the agency. When your agency lives or dies by your shared successes with your clients, you need to make those victories known loud and clear. People will get burned out if you don’t show value in what they’re delivering. 


💥Define your values - Overwhelmed by your applicant pool? Help hone your process by sitting down and defining your fundamental values as a company. From there, determine what traits and values you want to see in your employees.  Look at your top performers - they likely have common characteristics. Get these trends on paper so you can seek them out in candidates. This strategy requires getting direct in your interview process; you need to be asking these core questions right out the gate and get to what makes them tick. This strategy also helps assist during employee reviews - you can return to the values and assess what’s working and what isn’t. 


How to maintain stability as an agency? 


We talk about ad scaling either vertically (by adding budget) or horizontally (by adding audiences), but with a company, scaling vertically means deepening your partnership with clients by solving more of their problems. 


Expand your offerings -  but with purpose.

Email, Google, Facebook, Amazon, comment mod, creative, UGC - all of these services work together and benefit from an aligned strategy. Work with the client to determine the areas of highest impact and figure out (based on capacity) where you can add additional services, then build teams around those services. 


It’s a win for your clients; they need the help and will benefit from the deeper integration as you gain efficiencies and amplification of having all strategies aligned across platforms and divisions. And remember - you should be profiting when the clients are profiting, so a win for them is a win for you too 💪

Listen to the full pod for more, including upward mobility within a small company, personality-based placement, our "burn the boats" mentality,  and where Pilothouse has their sights set for 2021.

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We asked Pilothouse what are you doing NOW for BFCM?



And and Amazon Bonus from Cliff


Things We Loved This Week


📝 Article: Forbes preaches to the choir and lays out the biggest takeaways CPG companies can learn from DTC companies: Obsess over your end-to-end customer experience, act on real data for promotion and personalization, and go micro instead of macro with influencers. They miss the mark on this last point by focusing on the traffic of influencers, rather than focusing on what matters: influencer content (especially when combined with whitelisting / dark posting). 


👨‍💻 Mac Pro Tip: Split View allows you to easily split a monitor and run two apps without having to get all clicky to custom resize windows. Just mouse up to the 🟢 green button on the top left of your browser and see the hover options. You can pull down a partition and work seamlessly on both apps.


🚀 Soft Launch: Shhh it’s a quiet launch of DTC+, our membership tier that offers monthly workshops on tactical topics (like ad automation coming up), exclusive access to ask questions on podcasts, a living brain of ALL our content, and soon a DTC+ Facebook group. We’re looking for our first 100 core members to join and help us shape what’s to come. If you’d like a 50% discount on your first year with us, reply to this email and we’ll hook you up!


🧵 Thread: @davegarhardt throws down his seven step formula to create an audience in ANY industry, starting from zero. It starts with defining your niche and ends with learning through your audience to figure out exactly what to build & create for them. It’s not rocket science, but seeing it all laid out makes us see how real the opportunity is. 


🎵 Music: Need a new band to get obsessed with? Love Steve Nicks’ smokey tone? Check out Beach House. They’ve been making gorgeous, haunting music for over a decade. Kyle and I hum it during brainstorming sessions 😄


🐦 Tweet Debate: @SuperMugatu asks the essential question he can’t believe hasn’t been asked before: "What’s the biggest Total Addressable Market?" Food, housing, healthcare, newsletters, space -- lots of interesting ideas, but it’s gotta be retail where two TRILLION dollar companies (Amazon, Walmart)  still only have single digit market shares. Bonus points to @TheBenSchmark for calling "Life Extension" the only TAM that is innately good for LTV. 


🧵 Thread: This killer thread by @irishecom lays out exactly how to use TikTok, with several examples of brands getting millions of free impressions. If you have an eCommerce Brand or Dropshipping Store, and your target demographic is 13-26 year olds...you need a Tik Tok Content strategy.

🧼 CPG News: Pepsico was a first mover on the DTC snacking scene, launching Snacks.com and PantryShop.com back in May. Now they’re being rewarded with nearly doubled ecommerce sales in Q3. To ratchet up these DTC plays, Pepsico is launching new recipe hub, moresmileswitheverybite.com, featuring questionable recipes for Mac ‘n Cheetos, Mountain Dew pancakes and Code Red brisket.

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