For most of us, ecommerce is still a new phenomenon. For Smart Marketer founder Ezra Firestone, driving sales online has been his main pursuit since the days when you had to fax customer orders to the manufacturer. In this episode, Taylor and Ezra discuss his life in ecommerce, how it’s developed in the 15 years since, and how that experience gives him a unique perspective on what you need to do to thrive in the current environment.
- For more content from Ezra, check out his LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Checkout Ezra’s haircare brand, oVertone.
- Need help building your marketing calendar? Our strategy team is putting together 12-month audit packages here
- The Ecommerce Playbook mailbag is open — email us at email@example.com to ask us any questions you might have about the world of ecomm.
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Ezra: [00:00:00] Yeah. when I got started, it was before it was drop shipping, right? Like, you know, of Wayfair. They're the biggest drop shipper in America now. Those cats started at the same time I did. And what we were doing back in the day was we were finding American suppliers of bar stools, of gift baskets, of dog supplies of sex, toys of whatever you could find.
Taylor: All right. Welcome everybody to the E-Commerce Playbook podcast. I am switching seats today. I get to replace Richard and play host to a friend and someone I look up to a ton in this industry who I've gotten to know over the last few years just running into each other on the circuit and getting to swap stories and life experience.
And I always appreciate the chance to talk with this gentleman here. You know him from Smart Marketer, Zipify. Booming now Overtone, I mean, probably infinity. Other things that I are not listed there, but Ezra Firestone, sir, how are you?
Ezra: E-Commerce Playbook podcast. Let's go, man. I watch your clips on Twitter, so I'm very grateful to be here and I'm feeling good and you know, I like. I really love [00:01:00] talking about business and entrepreneurship and e-commerce and the industry, and I've been in it a long time and I've seen it evolve and you know, I've seen people come and go and people burn out and brands look like they're doing amazing and then not like I've just it's a fun space and it's fun when you get a chance to hang out with other folks who are, who are deep in it and you can kind of.
Taylor: Yeah. Well that wisdom, that length of your journey is what I want to soak up and start with today, because I think one of the things is that depending on where you insert yourself into the sort of e-commerce, Life cycle over the last, you know, whatever, 15 years that it's really exploded. You probably have a preference for some tactic based on the era that you grew up in, but you've lived through a lot of them and I've watched recently a clip of yours.
Speaking of clips, cuz you're going hard on it too is. You have a piece where you talk about this evolution of how you've seen your businesses build and you sort of outlined from the query era that was really search where someone was sort of delivering you an insight to the social era, Instagram and Facebook, where you're sort of delivering proactive content to [00:02:00] now what you describe as content-based or conversation based commerce. So, I'd be curious, as you reflect, can you give us a little bit about what you've seen over your long journey and where you think we are today in terms of how commerce.
Ezra: Yeah. So, so when I got started, it was before it was drop shipping, right? Like, you know, of Wayfair. They're the biggest drop shipper in America now. Those cats started at the same time I did. And what we were doing back in the day was we were finding American suppliers of bar stools, of gift baskets, of dog supplies of sex, toys of whatever you could find.
And you were getting a catalog from them and a CD of all the product images and you were putting it up on a Yahoo store and OS Commerce store. And you were ranked trying to get ranked in Google using search engine optimization and article marketing and squidoo lenses and hub pages. And when someone would buy from you.
They would search on Google. That was basically the only visibility source someone would buy from you. You would fax it to the manufacturer. And so it was like, it was search, find, buy, you know, [00:03:00] that was what existed. And then came along Frugal, which was the initial version of Google Shopping, which was kind of like a shopping, it was like sort of, Amazon hadn't quite taken off from an e-commerce perspective.
and that still is a really wonderful ver, you know, type of e-commerce. That happens a lot. But search traffic is limited and that type of a business is much better if you have tons of products. If you have a hundred SKUs, 200 SKUs. I got away from that because I didn't have multi SKU brands anymore. Once I sold my drop ship stores.
Once all the Google slaps came down in 20 11, 20 12, 20 13. Google Panda, Google Hummingbird, Google Penguin, Google Basical. Killed the SEO industry and with it, all of us, yeah, they killed all of us SEO people. And so I decided, hey, I'm gonna be a paid traffic guy because that's more consistent. I don't have to worry about SEO anymore.
And that was a mistake I think to really just, if I look back in my, and I look at what, you know, my sort of resentment towards. Organic has cost me now that I run really big businesses because now my [00:04:00] now organic really is an important part of an overarching omnichannel strategy, and I have ignored it for 10 years and I'm just now sort of rebuilding it.
Taylor: And it's funny to think that you would say that like organic is more volatile, right? Like the idea that's the volatility now is like, oh, but it's what you live through, right? That's what I sort of say with the, where you experienced the tactic was Google made it extremely volatile for you. It was there and then it was gone and so that, that presented as risk, right?
Like in a way that made paid feel stable.
Ezra: Yeah. And you know, hey, we were doing manipulative tactics. We were manipulating Google to rank art pages based on whatever we could figure out, page rank, sculpting, link build, like just whatever we could do. And they were right to come in and organize their algorithm to try to serve up better results for people and not just people like me who were manipulating search engines.
So I don't begrudge them of this. . But what, what else has come around is I now own this company called Overtone. I bought last January, and we have a couple hundred SKUs and or organic search and search find by sort of search traffic has become a lot more IOR important [00:05:00] because that brand has a lot of long tail opportunity.
Whereas the brands that I've been focused on for the, you know, previous 10 years did not have a lot of long tail search opportunities. So it was not really a strategy that I focused on. I'm mo mostly focused on brand search. Obviously you wanna be on Amazon, you wanna be the places where there's search, but.
Focusing on organic search and search in general is not something I've done in the last decade. What I've focused on instead was building desire and for my brand building search for my brand queries through what I would call you know, content marketing community building, and When I look at kind of like what makes a brand successful today, I think the faceless e-commerce brand is dying.
I think the sort of missionless storyless purposeless e-commerce brand is dying. Look, they're still out there. They're still your Wayfairs and you know, you're selling electric fireplaces and you're drop shipping 'em, and you've got 3000 options and you're doing long tail, like those brands exist.
and I see them now because I get all the I'm on all the business broker lists, so I get all the businesses that are being sold. I see these kind of like old school [00:06:00] legacy, SEO based, you know, thousand SKU drop ship focused e-commerce stores, and everybody's focused on just like slowing the melt of the ice cube.
It's like these things are slowly dying. You can buy it and just slow the melt and run it for cash flow. Um, If
Taylor: in ev Yeah cuz ev every search based environment, all the profits eventually get competed away. It's like there, it's the, it's digital real estate that there's more demand than supply for. And so eventually it just gets deteriorated over time.
Ezra: Well, what happened with Covid is fascinating. I was actually looking at this for boom year over year is when I look at my boom search terms, okay. Just my brand terms and some other sort of non-brand, but very close. And I look at the show rate for Amazon, Ulta, target and some of these other big box retailers in Google shopping, in Amazon, in the sort of um, shopping.
engines They're up 50%, they have more, 50% more visibility year over year because they figured out, oh, there's a lot of business to be made in e-commerce for us. So now they're outcompeting us on our own brand [00:07:00] on all the search engines.
Taylor: This is a thing I see. This is a great call out. Cause I see this as a, they are acutely aware that they, for them as a retailer, they don't have to pay for any of the demand creation. You the brand are doing all that work and I just sit there and I siphon demand capture. At high margin, and in some cases actually just drop shipping.
They're back to being drop shippers in some ways, siphoning off of that demand and they can take lower and lower margin. And especially if they get in an inventory position they don't like, they'll just get rid of it aggressively. Right. And so it becomes really problematic to your own funnel when there's that hole of your retail partners siphoning that demand.
Ezra: Yeah. And just to go back to your bigger picture question of like, where is e-commerce now? I feel like even a couple years ago, you could be an Amazon only brand. You could be like just me up to three years ago or two years ago even. I was a direct to consumer paid amplification only brand. Now in the last two years, I'm on Amazon, now I'm moving into retail.
Now I'm back into organic and SEO in [00:08:00] search. Like you kind of need to have omnichannel visibility. I still think the most important. That you could do is the old school, sort of 1000 true followers model or whatever it's called. There's a book where you build a community of people who actually ride with you, who actually like what you have to say, who are actually interested in you and your brand, and your story, and your mission, and your purpose and your products beyond just the problem that the product solves.
Obviously, You need to have a wonderful product that truly wows the customer when they you know, receive it where you are. Following up with them and giving them good support and building pre-arrival anticipation and upselling and cross-selling additional items like you need. You need good product development pipelines, so you got things to upsell and cross-sell.
You need to continually make your product better by iterating it based on feedback that you're getting from consumers and reading reviews. But if you don't have the. To keep a consumer engaged through what you're doing right now, Taylor, right? You run an agency and this is a piece of content that is relevant to the life experience, [00:09:00] problems, interests of the community of people that you ultimately want to sell to.
You're putting it out there for free to build some goodwill and eventually one of these folks who's listening to this thing is gonna say, oh, you know, I need a Facebook agency, or I need a creative agency. I'm gonna go with ctc. So like, I think this is, and I think most brands still are not very good. I talk to brands every day.
A minute I just spoke at these cats they're called Raindrop Creative. They're
Taylor: yeah. Jock Spitzer and the crew. Yeah.
Ezra: We hired them to do some videos for Boom, be another way that we're investing in sort of new strategic initiatives that we've never done before, right? Like we're a U G C based content.
Essentially company when it comes to ads. But they had me speak at their mastermind thing and one of these brands came up and said, Hey listen, you know, we are a 50 million brand. We're mostly retail. We're some Amazon, some D toc. We've got wonderful products. We have no idea how to build sort of relationship with a group of people online and we're getting killed margin wise at retail.
So I think it's like people still are not that great at it, and there's a lot of opportunity in in this kind of.
Taylor: The [00:10:00] reality is that not everyone is in market for your thing all the time, right? And so the qu the question is, where are you when they are in market, like relative to their mind share? And so especially in a service business, right? Like I know that. Most businesses have a contract that they're currently under with some partner that it some days gonna expire.
And the moment that expires is when they move into now consideration. And so the question is, where am I? In their mind at that moment comes, I don't know when it is. I don't know exactly when it's going to occur, but what is my presence in that moment?
Ezra: Totally. And you know, we have a services agency now at Smart Marketer where Molly Pittman, who's my c e O over there, really wonderful person and business owner wanted to start a service. I never wanted to be a service provider. I was like, this is not, I failed at services back in 2012 to 2014. I sold like $3 million in services and made zero money because I couldn't figure out to set boundaries around where a service ended.
And I was like, you know what? I have a, I at that point in life just had a problem with boundary setting in relationships and it was splitting into business. And I was like, , I had to [00:11:00] go software as a service. You pay me every month and it's clear what you get instead of like, you pay me for one thing and then I just do it for you forever.
But she wanted to start an agency and so she's done this and it's been very successful and we are getting people who are like, oh yeah, I've been following you guys for eight years. You know, I've been in your ecosystem forever and you know, hey, now I need an agency. And you guys were a.
Taylor: And that's exactly sort of what happened. And I think obviously we have a benefit, which is that you're selling a higher ticket service. You know, our customers can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I understand and empathize. How that's a harder thing for a brand selling a $30, you know, whatever.
But there has to be some element and the guys over at No Commerce, so Jeremiah, who's become a friend, and I think what they're doing with post-purchase survey, one of the interesting data points that he's revealed is that the window of consideration. For when a customer will identify, acknowledging all the limitations of self-identification of this, but the customer's experience when they will say they first experienced your brand relative to when they purchase, is [00:12:00] much, much longer than any attribution window that we would assign to it.
Right? It's not seven day click, 28 day click. It's like nine months, 12 months ago I heard about you and that's I think the part that we miss of how much it takes to often move people. Before they come to a moment of purchase, and I think that's where it's the surrounding halo of everything that you're doing fits into the impact of your direct
Ezra: someone called this and maybe it's an industry term, but I, I hired a retail uh, specialist who is supporting me and my launch into retail and they call certain marketing initiatives such as influencer, which again, I put under organic, right? You doing product, you're sending product out to people hoping they'll post about you.
Sometimes you're paying them, whatever. Definitely not something that we were doing. Now we are, he calls it surround sound marketing, you know? And you've got some of your overall budget dedicated to building this surround sound that over the course of a year, two years becomes very loud.
Taylor: Right. And this is one of the easiest things to see at an [00:13:00] agency, okay. Is that I can have the team of the same five people deploying the same tactics. Same structural media buying across five different brands and generating wildly different outcome. Well, well why? What's happening? Well, one of these brands has an incredible organic flywheel.
One of them has significantly more brand awareness. What like, so the question is, what is the environment in which that ad exists for that brand? Is this the first time the customer has ever heard of this thing or seen it at all? Or is this the 20th time that they've seen it and all the subsequent 19 touchpoints were positive?
Well, that ad generally is gonna be highly effective, and we're. Fast to attribute that to the quality of the creative or the ad itself, but the surround sound, the noise that ad exists in is so critical.
Ezra: Yeah and I like to put it this way, you know, this can feel overwhelming to smaller brands who might be listening
Taylor: Totally. It
Ezra: And so the way that I think about it, First and foremost, you build your sales funnel, which the simplest version is a direct response sales video. [00:14:00] Ideally starting with user-generated content because that's the easiest to get.
That then leads to. Either a pre-sale article or a long formm sales page. And on your, within your sales funnel, you've got email opt-in, pop-ups where you're offering a discount. You've got, you know, upsells and cross sells. You've got, you know, you've you build a direct response sales funnel, you build an ad system, you start running ads, you get re you know, I would assume that Facebook or Instagram is gonna be the best top of funnel source of visibility for most brands.
Then you use every other platform, TikTok, YouTube, Google Display, Google search you. Basically those are the main ones as remarketing. So you set up your remarketing there. Now you have an ad system, you've got a top of funnel sort of process, okay? From there, you then go into brand search on Google brand, search on Amazon.
Like you get the shopping platforms sort of together. For your brand. And then from there you go into, okay, now I'm figuring out, maybe I'm generating a few customers. Maybe I'm generating some email subscribers. Maybe I'm building pixeled audiences. How am I gonna keep those people engaged?
So now you roll [00:15:00] into your, what I call the smart social system, which is like a content marketing engine. Could be one piece of content a week. There's this thing called Future Loop now, where basically it's an AI. And you sign up to it and you put in like dog training and it will scour the world for the most popular dog training articles of the day of the week.
It'll put them into a curated feed and I got a friend who's got A market where they're using this and they're getting like 80% open rates on these things because it's just curated email content. They're dropping an email every
Taylor: that, you know, people love. Yeah. That's already pre-qualified.
Ezra: to necessarily make it yourself, but you need a way to keep your subscribers engaged.
I'm a fan of being a production company. I like to make my own stuff and figure out what people like and write articles and make videos and do podcasts and do Facebook Lives. Okay? Boom. Once you got that, then you move on to your. Static promotional activity, what I call your merchandising, what are you promoting to who and when, what sales are you running?
What giveaways are you doing? What Facebook lives are you doing? What kind of product launches you, are you having like, you're sort of like you layer on static promotional activity. From there, maybe you then get deeper into influencer marketing and [00:16:00] you know, professional video production, and then user generated ambassador content program and some of these other sort of like things that are gonna deepen the well of content that you can amplify to your community.
I think it starts with what you guys offer, which is a direct response, paid ads strategy. I still start there.
Taylor: Yeah I, we'd like to think of it as get to Default Alive where you have some system that produces sustainable revenue such that the business exists. Because a lot of businesses are not in that place. They're in default dead. Like, they're like, if they just continue, like today, they will run out of money.
So you need to get to Default Alive, which is like you have a system that's generating incremental profit or contribution for you over time. Okay, now on top of that healthy foundation, we can begin to build. And so I think that's a great. Okay. I wanna go back to something you said because this is one of our, this is one of the things I, as someone who has followed you for a while, have sort of watched from the outside and go, okay, why is Ezra moving from this, to this?
What is the motivation? so,
you brought up services, you brought up your interesting relationship with services you have [00:17:00] Zipify, you have the software ecosystem. You have boom, and now overtone. So you've play. Much like I have in all of these arenas. Sounds like the service one. You said, Molly, this is your jam.
You take it.
Taylor: is your relationship with each of these and rate them sort of from business, val, financial value and personal satisfaction. Those are the two things I
Ezra: Okay, well first let me give you my overall model of why I do what I do. So, I like to think of my business as a permaculture ecosystem. Permaculture is the idea of reusing all of your assets to their greatest benefit. Capture the rainwater water, the garden, use the chicken poop for your compost, reuse, everything.
I did not. Grow up with means. I grew up on the lower end of the economic spectrum and I learned to be scrappy and I learned to take inventory of everything that I had and every person in my ecosystem that was that could support me and that I could support. And I learned that you know, you do your best to serve others and you ask for help when you need it, and you use what you have around you.
And if you really look, you have a lot [00:18:00] more than you think you do. And so I was an e-commerce business. Early days, right. I'm talking 2005 is when I started my drop ship e-commerce journey. 2012 I sold my first drop ship store, so that's seven years. I was running drop ship businesses. Got it up to a couple million bucks a year by 2011, and this was old school.
And at that time, You know, there was nobody talking about this, but blogging had become a big thing. And I saw a guy, actually, the way I got into e-commerce was I was the marketing director for a life coach. It's a long story, but he sort of like coaching has now penetrated the mainstream ideology.
There's business coaches and relationship coaches and health coaches but this was not the case in oh four. Nobody knew what a coach was, and this guy was like the first, he was an Australian cat that came to America and sort of popularized the idea of life coaching and what he had. Was a newsletter and basically he, back then the only type of brand, when you said, I have a brand, what you meant was I got a website and a newsletter.
That was it. You didn't, there was no pixeled audiences, there was no social media followings, there was nothing else. There was just your brand and your newsletter. And he had this community of people who [00:19:00] he would drop a weekly newsletter to. And then once a month we'd run a product launch sale a webinar, whatever we would do traditional.
The same information marketing I'm doing at Smart Marketer now, we were doing all the way back then on like one shopping cart and we were. And so I thought, Hey, blogging mommy blogs were popping up. Like I could blog about this e-commerce stuff that I'm really interested in and hopefully build a community of people who could support me.
I could use the energy of my business to create community and support and maybe more business. And so I started Smart Marketer in 2012, and because I was the only guy, Shopify picked me up and Shopify picked me up all the way back then, published me as their first educator, and I was sort of off to the races as a e.
Influencer, if you will, not because I was better than anyone else. There's a lot of great e-commerce business owner owners there out there, but I was talking about it and other people weren't, and then I sort of really enjoyed it and got good at it and not started selling courses and events and coaching and all this kind of stuff that I would then take the.
Money that I made from that. Put it back into my e-commerce business. I told you I ran a [00:20:00] services agency. I ran an AdWord services agency from 2008 to 2012. And I was very successful in that agency actually, because that was really simple. You got paid on a percentage of ad spend back then and I was a really good Google advertiser.
I kind of made my bones with Google advertising. And I transitioned to a development agency from 2012 to 2014 doing Shopify development, magenta development, big commerce development, ex cartt, like zen cartt because I understood the e-commerce sort of buyer cycle, and I also understood technology and could, you know, basically buy and sell labor, right?
So I'm buying labor. From at that point I was buying it from India for my development. I was doing WordPress dev at the time, and I was using my intellectual property and knowledge to support somebody and say, Hey, this is what you need. This is how we're gonna do it. I'd get a designer to design the thing, I'd get it coded.
And so I was basically running that agency. But the problem I had, and I'm gonna answer your actual question in a section, I'm second, I'm just giving some context. The problem I had, I couldn't set boundaries. I'd sell someone a $15,000 build and then I would just keep updating it for them. And so I realized, you know what?
I'm a failure at this [00:21:00] agency business. I'm gonna shut it down. But I could tell that there was technology gaps in Shopify, in Big commerce in Volusion, which were the big three at the time. And I wanted to. Like bridge those, but not through Dev. And so that's where Zipify came from. I could, you could pay me every month and I could continually update your thing.
And that way we had an ongoing relationship and it wasn't kind of a one-time feat. When I look at my overall, like what do I like to do? I like to make things so physical, product e-commerce is my favorite. I make the most money from it because boom. Is by far and away my most successful business ever.
Now I'm buying businesses, but there's something that's a little different when you buy the thing versus when you build it yourself. And also, you know, I bought Overtone, right? We bought it for eight figures. I only put a million dollars in, right? I got an investor capital from private equity to support me in buying the rest.
So even though I do own an overtone, I only own, let's call it hey bud. 10 or 15%. There's a little muffin behind you there, o of the company, right? So from a like, He's cool. Yeah.
Taylor: like, I was like, who?
Ezra: Let's go Mark McGuire. You know,
Taylor: That's our little league team this year. That's our little league team this year. LA We had [00:22:00] last pick. We, yeah, we had the last pick. That's what
Ezra: Oh, come on man.
You don't wanna be Oakland, dude. Let's go. Dude. I was there when anyways, we don't have to get into Oakland A's, but I know a lot about Oakland a's history. But I lost
Taylor: you bought it you had 10 to 15% of overtone,
Ezra: I only own 10 to 15% of that company. So even though it's a like a, you know, a high, let's call it a $20 million a year company, from what I make from it is, you know, I don't own the whole thing.
Whereas boom, I have significantly more ownership and I sold 70% of boom. So I made a whole bunch of money there. But like terms of. Everyday sort of enjoyment of what I do. I'd say 80% of my energy is boom and overtone. I'm the c e o of those two companies. I oversee strategic direction operations, like I run those businesses.
Zipify is very profitable. 10 million a year software company software is a nightmare. I would never recommend software to anybody with. Hey, software, it's the companies are worth a lot when they're successful because they trade on a multiple of revenue, not on a multiple of profit. Your e-commerce company is going to sell.
Because look, wealth people think of wealth creation in terms of cash flow [00:23:00] businesses. That is not how wealth is created. Wealth is created by the liquidation of assets. When you look at my. parents' generation. Now, my parents didn't do this. They became hippies and joined a commune and have no money.
But but their generation, what they did was they took the money from their 401ks, from their jobs. They invested it in real estate asset. They let the asset appreciate over 20, 30, 40 years, they sold it. That's how they made their money. I sell, i, I grow businesses. Those are the assets that I invest my energy into, and then I sell them.
So you make your money on the liquidation of assets. Take the money from your cash flow businesses, put it into assets. So Zipify technic. Is arguably worth even more than overtone. Not quite as much as boom, cuz boom is so big. But it's a cash flow of business for me, and I have a really wonderful operating team there.
It doesn't take a ton of my time and energy, and it makes a couple million bucks a year in profit. So it's a wonderful business, but it's very hard and it's very risky. Shopify's constantly building the things that you built. Competitors are constantly popping up and there's, you know, it, you know, integrations are breaking.
It's a never ending rabbit hole of. So there's three things in a business. There's support, there's marketing, there's product [00:24:00] support, is really easy for services and e-commerce support is really hard for software. Think about it this way, the knowledge worker of in who does support has to be smarter than the business owner who uses the software.
So the level of knowledge worker for your support on software is difficult. Whereas for e-commerce, it's like refunds and questions about the product for services, it's not as difficult. So, so support is easy for. For services and e-com But hard for software product is the hardest for software because it's code.
It's a code base that's constantly changing. Integrations are breaking. You've gotta build new things. It's like, it's a, it's like a, it's, you need front end engineers, backend engineers, qa, project managers, e-commerce. It's like I sell tubs of goop. Hey, they're nice tubs. They're sustainable cut tubs. It's really wonderful goop, you know, handmade and organic.
But it's like more tubs, more goop, more shrink. Out the door, it's like product is actually easy at scale. You can get your bulk material, you're using a third party manufacturer services product is quite hard actually because you are not only arbitration [00:25:00] labor, but you have to train and manage and direct and oversee individuals and so services.
is the second hardest from a product standpoint because the product is actually the system and process of training and managing a group of people, which is quite difficult, right? So service is the second hardest. I think e-commerce is the easiest business, is what I'm getting to. And then marketing is the same difficulty for all of them.
You know, you gotta, you. Hey, you have less people you can sell to with services, less people you can sell to with software. So e-commerce, you have a bigger market, but you have way more competition in eMAR e-commerce than you do in services and software. It's a lot easier to differentiate yourself and differentiate your value prop in services and software than it is e-comm.
But I think e-com is. The best business. Now I wouldn't probably recommend anybody starting fresh start an e-comm today. I'd
Taylor: Yeah, that's the
Ezra: because, you know, services is sweat sweat equity, right? There's not a lot of overhead. You're selling your time and energy as you get started. So it's easy to get cash flow coming in.
Definitely don't start in software. I mean, software is hard.
Taylor: It's funny, I, so, I, so, okay, so let me [00:26:00] par back my experience relative to yours. Cause I, so software is the most over romanticized business model. Like people have, it is so complex to actually deliver a product that customers consistently want to use that doesn't require complex changes all the time. And the labor skill is really expensive and hard, and everybody wants something different outta your product all the time.
And deciding on the roadmap of which feature, it's like it is really hard. And I I'm constantly blown away that everyone is so romantically obsessed with it. And it's all because of what you described in terms of how they see these businesses selling on the. That's like such a large, tiny fraction of the outcomes in that space, you know?
Ezra: Yeah. And the ones that get really big make a lot of money. And so then it's all, they're employing people and everybody gets free lunch and everybody thinks it's cool, but it's like if you're a scrappy, small software guy is not easy.
Taylor: No. And then on The services side, so what I've always think that people underappreciate about the services is we focus so much on the upside of the outcomes, but I think [00:27:00] that. The downside is like the floor is the highest in the services because I have so little risk of death, right? Because my costs are controllable.
Now there's a human component to it that has a cost, but in terms of, I don't ever have to make an inventory purchase where my cash is unavailable to me in some way that I have this real risk of death. Like The risk of ruin in a service businesses is small. And so I think in that sense, you always get another chance to go again.
Ezra: The emo, the emotional intensity of dealing with the sort of charge and anxiety and fear and in like, you have to deal with people in a real way. And you have to be emotionally intelligent to run a services agency. And you have to be able to connect with people on that human level and deal with their emotional charge negatively directed at you.
Because services agencies are the punching bags of business owners. Service agencies just get in there and they just take blows, man.
Ezra: are somebody who is quite emotionally intelligent and you know, understands how to communicate in a good way. And so, but for some people it's a hard [00:28:00] business. You know, like I just didn't want to talk to people.
I'm kind of a hermit, like I kind of, you know, so it's like Molly loves talking to people, so it's like, great dude.
Taylor: Exactly. I gotta find me someone like Molly. She's awesome because I agree. There are, it's funny, so Steve Weiss, who's the founder of Mute six, I don't know if you know Steve.
at all, but it's funny, he and I have become good friends in sort of co journeyers in this process, much like you and I, and.
He Al also has this gift when I talk with Steve, like Steve would admittedly say he's not the like technical genius that's gonna go solve all the problems, but he says, I will sit on the phone for with anyone forever and let them be upset at me. Like that's like his superpower is like he just is totally okay talking to people all the time.
He loves it and he is totally okay with the housing, their frustration. And that is like a magical gift for a services leader in a way that.
Ezra: will, somebody will never leave you because you become like a default therapist in a way where they know they can like, you know, sh express emotional intensity in your direction and sort of like, get that off their chest. So I agree with you that services are a really [00:29:00] wonderful business in terms of cash flow, in terms of profitability, in terms of, you know, risk of them going under, like, I my My, you know, we didn't talk about information publishing, which you're also in, which is maybe the worst business
Taylor: Yeah, I was gonna say, probably didn't even cross my mind.
Ezra: Yeah, it's the, you know, when I started in info publishing, don't get me wrong, it was wonderful because guys like you weren't around, I was the only cat in town and there wasn't a lot of people teaching Facebook teaching, you know, conversion rate optimization, sales funnels, e-commerce, email. Now there's so many options and there's so much for free and, you know, there's so much competition that like, you know, we run our information publishing business just to break even for lead generation.
Like it is not a profitable business sector for us at all. It's like a good way to generate. and if, and our goal is breakeven just to, you know, and then the services agency is where the profit comes from on that side,
Taylor: So I think about it the same way, and I love the permaculture. So that's your, you're the hippie in you coming out that I love. I might sort of try and steal that phrase. I think it's, what you're describing is sort of [00:30:00] vertical integration of your cost centers, right? In a way that you try and e either eliminate them or turn them into profit centers.
Right? So this idea that. I could take.
my marketing, which is by default, a cost structure on my line out on my by p and l, and I could turn it into zero sum. Like that's a leverage point as a service provider if you can do that. Right. So I think about that the same way. And that is a nightmare ruthless business.
I agree. It is just, there are 7,000 Facebook ad buyer slack groups and communities and you know,
Ezra: you should be 1, 1, 1 Credit feather. I'll give you in your cap. You guys do such a good job on Twitter. So I, I just moved a, a lady uh, from my social team into the ads team to get her trained up and the first thing I had her do was go sign up for your service .
Even. Look, she's going through our stuff too, you know, but you know, she's on yours too now.
Taylor: It's like we need, we need a, we need a sort of mafia, this thing, and all of us create one group and try and try and house it all off somewhere, you know? But I agree. That one's super hard. Okay, last thing, man. I wouldn't have a conversation with you without going a little philosophical.
And you and I generally when we talk off camera or live more in that realm together than [00:31:00] we do even on the business side, which I really appreciate. And so I really love that every one of your social platforms, from LinkedIn to Instagram, you lead with what I appears to be, to me, like a purpose statement or some sort of personal mission.
This idea of serve the world unselfishly and profit. So what I'm curious about, The driving creation of that and how that frames your decision making. And then my second question is, how do you know if you're being unselfish? So those are my two questions for you.
Ezra: So, so I will start with, I think, serve the world. Unselfishly and profit is actually a description of how things work. This is not a mandate, this is not a directive, this is a description of the way I see the world. If you are, if your goal is service, if your goal is to take care of the folks around you in a good way, in a positive way, with enthusiasm, with a positive attitude, and show up and contribute what you.
can I think that is profitable in the act itself. And I think that you end up make, you know, you end [00:32:00] up getting yours in the giving and it ends up coming back around to you. And I look at my businesses the same way. I really believe that. And you can call it karma, you can call it whatever you want. But I think when your goal, when you look around and you say, Not how can I get mine, but how can I contribute and support you in getting yours and support our community and support the world And sup, like how can I add value is a common way that entrepreneurs say it, but like, what is a way that I can contribute?
And you look for that first instead of what can I take, what can I get? And you know, the PE people in business who get. Who get messed up are the ones who are looking for what they can take out of their business. I think that's the wrong thing to look at. I think that the right thing to look at is what more can I contribute?
Who can I get to help me? How can I invest more? How can I get more people galvanized to support me in this mission and support them in achieving their goals? I think you get further in life when you. Adopt this. When you subscribe to the idea that this is how it goes, because it's really my viewpoint is that's how it goes.
What is unselfish? Well, first of all, people would say, Hey, you know, like there's a lot of of sort of, validation and [00:33:00] agreement and Energy in the direction of you must sacrifice for your family and you must grind and burn yourself down to a nub. And everybody gets theirs before you get yours.
And it's like, I don't think that is a way to have longevity. I think that's a way to burn yourself out. I don't think that actually works. What I think unselfish is number one, take care of yourself, right? And what do I mean by that? I mean energetically, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationship wise.
So, so that when you show up to contribute to a work cycle, to a family cycle, to a relationship cycle, to a community cycle, you have brushed your teeth, you have slept well, you have moved your body, you have eaten well, you. Ha done what it takes to have social experience because you're a human and you need socializing so that you feel good.
Like do what it takes to feel good in your own body and your own mind, and that takes investment from you. That is unselfish because then when you show up, you're pulling, pouring from a cup that is full. And look, that doesn't mean, Hey, you got kids, man. You know what it's like. I am going through a very [00:34:00] traumatic life experience with my child and it's.
Things in life will pull energy from you. And it doesn't mean you have to be fully energized all the time and that you're not gonna have a bad day or you're not gonna experience the full spectrum of emotions where you're agitated or anxious or frustrated or sad. It's like all that is righteous and you want all of that.
You know, you're gonna have that as a human. But the key is how do you react to it? You don't know what the world's gonna throw at you, but you can re, you can decide, you can take responsibility for your life and decide how you want to show up and how you want to contribute. And I think. Framework is what I mean by unselfish.
I mean, you're showing up with the intention of doing well, and you're taking care of yourself in such a way that you actually have the energetic and emotional capacity to do that. And then you give as much as you can give in whatever direction, and you don't give beyond your surplus. , it's really popular to give, people give beyond their surplus, and then they resent the people they gave to because they say, oh, well, if that person had been noticing me, they would've known that I was beyond what I actually wanted.
It's like, no, it's your job to set those [00:35:00] boundaries. Your job not to give beyond your surplus. Give until it feels good. Don't give until it hurts.
Taylor: Sounds like you're ready to get back in the services business.
Ezra: Nah, give the services business. No.
Taylor: I'm just kidding. But, well, look man I find that When people have sort of this declared sort of attention or view of the world, it does tend to frame their behavior in ways that you can experience. And I'll just say that I've experienced you that way, that you show up with intention and purpose and genuinely trying to give into the spaces that you're in with what you have available, and then even getting to sort of talk with you through some of what you're going through.
You also have illustrated when you're unavailable, when I don't have a lot to offer you in this moment, and I just came out of a q and a, I do a q and A every Wednesday with my employees, and one of them asked me, I thought I was an empathetic person, like, or how I think about developing the skill of empathy.
And one of the things I talked about is that I used to think that I had to be a totally emotional, a avail, totally being empathetic was being totally emotionally available to everyone all the time. And like what I learned was that wasn't actually possible. And instead it's very [00:36:00] honest and expresses a level of care to say to someone, I don't have a lot to offer.
Right. For and for whatever context I'm willing to share. And there's been multiple times I think about going back to the one of the events that we were at where you sort of, it was your own event and you made that statement very publicly like, Hey everyone, I'm here, but what I have to offer. May not be the same thing that we've experienced every time together, but I'm present, I'm offering out of what I have.
And it was like, man, I felt more connected to you than if you had sort of attempted to muscle up this energy and misrepresented what you actually had to give. I felt like, oh, okay. He's actually allowed me into a view of himself. And so that was a really great leadership lesson and I appreciate you for that.
Ezra: Thanks, man. Yeah, I think people appreciate when you're just honest about where you are, you know, and one of the things you said to me, which I thought was cool, Because you were like how are you doing? I was like, I think I'm doing good. And you're like, Hey man, it's okay if you're not also like you, you know, it's okay if you're not doing well because what, what I'm just to [00:37:00] share for your listeners, it's public that's out there on my Instagram.
Now I have a terminally sick kid. You know, my, my daughter was born three months premature. She spent a year in the nicu. . And one of the things that I did not, that I took for granted was the value of a stable home place, right? So we spent a year in the hospital in under fluorescent lights in the nicu, 98% of our time indoors, sick babies, everywhere, bells and alarms going off, are baby gonna die at any minute?
Like just the intensity, different hospitals. And one of the gifts out of this has been like just my desk, man. I love my desk. And I thought I had. Pretty good gratitude practice. And it's one of the cool lessons from this has been, man, there's always more, there's deeper you can go there is just more available in any area with more dedicated and directed attention, you know?
And I'm kind of rambling now
Taylor: No, but, you're right.
Ezra: was cool when you were like, Hey dude, like you don't have to be okay. You know, you can just be wherever you.
Taylor: And there's actually the other thing you.
brought up in our [00:38:00] conversation, which I've thought a lot about, me and my therapist have processed similar principles, which is that the depth of the, your willingness to go into the depth of your own sorrow or sadness has this sort of inverse ability to unlock the height of your joy.
And that was something you shared with me about the experience you're going through is that yes, you have gone to the lowest depth of grief and sadness and pain, but it's given you more upside on the joy and gratitude as well. And I
Ezra: I think expansion, it happens in all directions, right? It's like you expand in a 360 capacity. So yes, we have had the darkest, scariest, most intense emotional experience of our lives. But we have also, we've, we were talking last night, like we have never experienced more beauty. Never in our lives have we seen any we just, and that's kind of an interesting spot to be in.
It's like, whoa, you know, I think you're right that like, you. It goes both ways. You know,
Taylor: and I think it's funny that entrepreneurship is much like that too, where I think one of the things that people like us find addicting about [00:39:00] it is that it's the experiential range of emotion. It's the victory at the end that feels so incredible, and also how freaking hard it is a lot of the days.
You know, it's like we're gluttons for punishment in that way. So, well buddy, it's
Ezra: downs, baby.
Taylor: Always a pleasure man. I appreciate you stopping by. What's, what are you what's the best thing people can do to check you out these days? Where are we? We buying some hair dye. Is that the best thing we can do?
Ezra: Yeah, if you're interested, dye your hair. I got some good stuff. Semi-permanent, so it's gonna last a while, but on, I'm on. So, you know, I like to ask people to follow me on social media, Instagram, Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn. I'm on all of them. I started recently putting out more little videos.
I'm late to the party on this whole short form, you know, content thing. But uh, but I got, I am, you know, trying to put out more videos and stuff. Um, Molly was basically like, look dude, people respond the best to. Top of funnel awareness content and you stopped doing it last year and we need you to start again.
So now I'm putting videos out.
Taylor: yeah. You're going hard. You've gotta have so many hours of, stuff, man. Like you've gotta have countless hours. yeah, You've got the library.
Ezra: yeah, [00:40:00] I got good stuff.
Taylor: So a couple editors, and we'll be seeing lots of you everywhere. So looking forward to it.
Ezra: Cool. Thanks for having me on.
Taylor: All right, bro. Talk soon.
Thanks again for joining us for the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast. Remember to rate and review, and if you're watching on YouTube, remember to like and subscribe. That really helps us out. If you wanna know more about how you can work with us, uh, learn from us, uh, just interact in with us in any way, go ahead and drop us a firstname.lastname@example.org.
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