Matt is a growth expert with an offline bent, helping Storefront create a marketplace for short-term retail space. He teaches us the basic components of a sales process and he talks about his new screen scraping course.
→ What is Storefronts
→ What E-commerce companies are interested in testing in the offline world
→ Different types of VP of sales and when to hire them in your company
→ Transactional sales process for Storefront
→ The Impact of paid advertising to Storefront
→ The effectiveness of content marketing strategy for Storefront
→ Why lengthy sales process can lead to time spent on uninterested individuals
→ His thoughts on hiring and training effective salespeople crucial for a successful sales process
→ Knowing when to pivot and change the sales process
→ The importance of the psychology of selling, understanding customer motivation
→ The importance of building a good relationship with the customer.
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Matt Ellsworth with us. Matt, thanks for coming on the show.
Matt: Thank you for having me.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. We’re glad you’re here because you are the VP of Growth at Storefronts, which is a great name for what you guys do. But tell us what a storefront.
Matt: Storefront is a marketplace for short term retail space. And so very specifically, what we do is we help retailers find places to open up shops for short periods of time. A traditional lease is usually 12 months and beyond, and that’s been primarily people’s kind of grief with going offline and doing an offline store up until now. So online has become a lot easier in the last couple of years, in the last 5 to 10 years, actually. So we want to make it as easy to open up an offline store as it is to open on an online store. And then the marketplace aspect of that is that we also work with space owners of retail space available or just extra space available and help them to listen. And so that renters will become interested in. And so we’ve even called Airbnb for retail or so that kind of helps people. That metaphor helps people understand.
Bronson: Yeah, I was just thinking like store envy or Shopify for like the physical world, something like that. So Airbnb, that helps. That’s good.
Matt: We’ve actually done a store with store envy. They have a pop up shop in Crocker Galleria in downtown San Francisco that they started doing with us. It started off as like four of their local, local sellers in there, and a bunch of them have done really well. One of them, it was their first store. They did so well that they opened up their own store permanently and that same center and store and has been there since February. And they just rotate people in every month so that they run through the end of the year.
Bronson: Do you see people doing it that way where they actually use Storefront to kind of validate the idea of having a full fledged store of their own? Is that what people are doing?
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. So we get requests from all sorts right there. We get requests from like the top echelon of like retailers that have retail stores all over the place. But for them, pop up represents the ability to add test the offline world. You know, Lululemon actually will open up stores in multiple neighborhoods and see which one does the best that do temporary stores. And then they’ll, you know, and then at that point, they’ll double down on which one is doing the best and maybe open up a flagship store there. The the thing that has stopped people from doing that in the past is, you know, working with landlords and going off of like historical sales data for other retailers. But that doesn’t necessarily translate for them. And I would say our biggest that are some of our biggest clients are like our most frequent clients are ecommerce companies. And you know, in ecommerce you can track everything and the offline world is a lot harder to track. So for us, we kind of represent them like, you know, tiptoeing into the water to see how warm it is and how and how well they do. And I think a lot of them are actually really surprised at how great offline can be with good foot traffic and, you know, in the right spot, obviously.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s really exciting what you guys are doing. How long have you all been around right now?
Matt: We’ve been around since early last year when the two founders started started kind of doing the research and talking to e-commerce. And he’s like, is this something that’s that’s viable? We started placing people last year in December when we actually kind of did the scrappy startup thing, and we rented a space ourselves in Westfield Mall here in San Francisco. And about three or four days into December, I started calling people trying to rent it out for December. So it was pretty crazy. But we got, I think, 11 different vendors in there throughout the time. So we rented it out for like three days at a time if we had to. Some people took it for longer. We even did multi-tenant stuff in that space. So yeah, that was it was quite the scramble. But we’ve, we’ve been actively placing people since then. And since then we’ve done over 150 pop ups.
Bronson: Well, different locations under 50 different locations or.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bronson: That’s great. And what cities are you in right now or are you just in San Francisco or are you venturing out there?
Matt: Yeah. So we’re San Francisco, New York, and soon to be officially L.A. So we have spaces that are listed from all over the place. We have kind of concentrations in San Francisco, New York and L.A. and similar to some other listing sites out there like Airbnb, we take professional photographs of the spaces because we find that they convert much better. And when people really, you know, can get some eye candy. So those are the three markets that we’ll do photographs in because that’s where we have our photographers. But then, you know, people are kind of allowed to upload from wherever they’d like. We get we have some in London, we have all over the U.S. I mean, even small secondary markets are really interesting to us because sellers have access to the Internet so they know what’s happening in retail. They know that pop ups are happening. Maybe they’re not happening in their city. But if I’m a seller online, I’m savvy and I’m paying attention to the blogs. I know the people are doing this in New York, so what’s stopping me from doing it? My hometown?
Bronson: Mm hmm. Now, let’s talk about how you achieve some of that growth. To have 150 different locations. You’ve only been around since December. So you’re still less than a year of actually, you know, actively renting space and doing those kind of things. So that’s quite a growth curve when you’re talking about physical locations. Yeah, we’re not talking about 150, you know, digital things. We’re talking about 180 physical locations. So I want to I want to reiterate that because I don’t think people realize the difference sometimes, like how much more difficult offline is. So let’s talk about how you achieve that kind of growth, because looking at your stuff online, it seems like you’re very process oriented when it comes to the cell cycle, when it comes to customer acquisition. How important is a process for a salesperson?
Matt: Yeah, so I mean, a process is really important for just about anybody. I think that when you’re in a startup, especially early stage, I have a couple of opinions on kind of early stage sales and seeding marketplaces, for one, because we are kind of selling to customers, right? So that inevitably brings some challenges. And I think probably the easiest way to to start off with growth there is to just kind of focus on one side of the equation that you think needs more of a push than the other one. But in terms of in terms of processes, it’s been absolutely the number one thing that we focused on. So I think early on, it’s probably like in right when you first start selling to people, you first start getting customers. It’s probably too soon to start doing like crazy AB tests and you know, get too technical, too worried about the numbers. And it’s more of a time to trust your gut, at least in my opinion. So when you start talking to people, you kind of see what resonates with them and then you kind of just roll with it. And a lot of like early stage sales, I think are definitely a brute force, right? Because you can’t afford to be overly tactical about everything when you’re doing different things, when you’re a small team, you’re doing a bunch of different things. You kind of got a double down on what’s working. And the more leverage that you can be in those activities in terms of like what’s the energy amount that I’m putting into this and what am I getting out of it? The more you can kind of focus on that, the better. But I would say that like the very beginning of sales processes for a seed stage startup is very brute force. So I describe it as that, right? You brute force, you get out there, you prove that there are people interested in it. You probably are doing some cherry picking. You’re not sticking around to wait for people to say that they’re arguing with people they’re not interested. You know, less objection overcome depending on what you’re doing and more kind of just getting the people that are early adopters in the door and getting them going. But this is are absolutely huge for us and we probably should document more of them. But we do a really good job here of just kind of updating people on a on a weekly basis on what the process is for how we’re doing this and got it in our organization. Specifically, growth touches like literally everybody, so everybody is affected by it. So we try to make it so that everybody knows what’s going on and what we’re doing and knows what the process is. If you’re a customer, reach out to them specifically, etc..
Bronson: Yeah, no, that’s great. And I agree with what you’re saying that early on, you know, it’s not the time to polish the chrome. You’re still working on the engine. I mean, you’re still got major chunks of the business that need a lot of attention. So it’s not the time to, you know, sit around a worry about what color the car is going to be when it doesn’t even run yet, you know?
Matt: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s, you know, an even more or that I would say that I definitely have difficulty with this. And I think anybody that is kind of out of the engineering esque mindset, even if you’re not here, but if you like to build things and kind of build out processes, it’s really easy to over engineer those processes as well. And we’ve done it. I’ve done it, had to like sometimes keep each other in check and say, look, I think you’re like trying to solve for problems that you think we may have down the road, but we don’t have them yet. Yeah. So let’s solve the problems we do have and pay attention to that and then worry about those other things. And I would also say that sales and marketing processes, whether you’re a growth hack, sales hack or whatever it is, it’s all about iteration. It’s like product is right. So get something shady out the door if that’s what you have to do and then just make it better as time goes on. You can’t you can’t sit back and let your growth be hindered because you’re over overanalyzing your processes and trying to do or trying to perfect things too much.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now, online, it seems like you’ve actually built up this kind of sales process for a number of companies. I mean, you’re at storefront now, but you were a part of really getting sales processes created at other companies as well and some of the big chunks of that I want to talk through with you. One of them is messaging. Messaging is a big part of the sales process, a big part of the machinery that you’re trying to put into place, you know, to to effectively acquire customers. How important is it to have the right messaging, in your opinion?
Matt: I think it’s really important. That’s important for internal selling as well as external selling. I think one of the things that people don’t think about very often is that when you’re selling something, especially in the early stages, certain customers and certain types of engagements can actually pull internal resources, right? So you have to be mindful of what’s happening internally when you’re when you’re selling externally. So it can be if I’m selling a. Declare a customer that may require us to put in 100 extra hours of engineering for his customer. Is that going to be good? And so messaging internally and externally becomes really important at that point because you need to make sure that you’re talking about the same thing and having kind of the same vernacular internally. I know that we’ve really struggled with that early on because we all kind of had a different term for what it was, and we also touch a lot of different types of customers, right? So on the demand and the renter side, we’ll maybe talk to somebody who’s selling on store and be your Shopify or Etsy. And we’ll also talk to somebody who works at like a top 100 Internet retailer. Right. And the the terms that they use are probably going to be very different. Similarly, on the supply side, we’ll talk to our commercial real estate broker or landlord. And they have very technical terms and a lot of jargon for what they do, whereas we have a store within a store concept doing a coffee shop down the street, they’re just going to call their extra space like, hey, that extra corner of room there that we have in the corner, right? I think that messaging is extremely important for your team, for or for your customers, but then also taking your messaging and evolving it to whoever kind of you’re talking to. So we kind of call that messaging profiles. So early on, we decided, here’s how we’re going to segment our users on both sides. Maybe we don’t know who’s our perfect user yet, so we’re going to continue to talk to all of them or segment them and say, here’s what the values are for each one of them. And here’s kind of, you know, how you would set up in terms of what language you would use and what we think are the big levers for for for their business. Right. What’s important to them? So I’d say it’s it’s really important and it’s not very hard to establish either. You just get the team together in one meeting and agree on what you’re going to call things and what you’re going to use internally for that language. And then see if that see if that works externally. I think that that in our product, at some in some point we’ve put internal language into our product and it hasn’t resonated with the external folks. So we’ve had to go in and change that to something that makes more sense to them. So we get emails. I’m confused. I don’t know what this is like, you know, why? Why do you call it this? You know, I don’t I don’t do that in my my line of business. Right. So finding a universal language that resonates with everybody is can can be difficult, but it’s easy to get everybody on the same page and give it a go.
Bronson: Yeah. I want to dig into something you said there because it’s so important. I think people don’t realize how important words are, period. They think it really is about technology 100% of time. And it really is. It’s not the words used to describe that technology that bridges the gap between a customer and them getting to your product. But you said you have multiple profiles of customers, which is necessary because you’re dealing with some small coffee shops and other huge corporations. So obviously the words you use are going to be different and they’re going to respond differently based on how you communicate to them. And I just want to reiterate that because companies miss this, they don’t realize that one of the oldest growth hacks ever is just using the right word at the right time. That is a huge way to get inside their mind because when people hear the words they want to hear and the kinds of words they’re used to using themselves, then you’re on their side. You’re not simply trying to sell them. You’re somebody that gets them. And now they want to do business with you. Is that the way you guys see it?
Matt: Yeah, I totally agree. And anybody who kind of doubts that they should probably think about the last time they received an email from somebody that was really short one sentence and it they felt like, oh, my God, this person’s mad at me. You know what I mean? Like it’s like a are or your text message that kind of rubbed you the wrong way or you sent somebody an email and they completely read it the wrong way. That’s because of the words you chose to use and the way that you structured it. I mean, obviously it depends on the medium that’s spoken word. There’s own, there’s all kinds of things. So email can be even more difficult. Written word can be more difficult when you’re reaching out to somebody cold, especially. But in general, it absolutely it absolutely is very important. I mean, our brains work by referencing information we’ve already stored. So if we don’t know something about a particular concept, it’s a word we’ve never heard or it’s a phrase that we’ve never heard before. It’s going to resonate with us a lot less than it would if it was something that’s somewhat familiar to me. You know, it can be quirky and weird. It can be kind of like, you know, attention grabbing, but it references things that I already understand and know about.
Bronson: Yeah. And that whole conversation we’re having right now, it starts with the consumer. It starts with the customer, what words they like, what words they use. And that’s a big thing is just getting inside their head. And so that’s why, you know, you said you had the internal kind of words and you put them on a side. They didn’t do that well. But then when you started using the words of the people that are coming to the site, it does better. That’s just a universal truth. Get inside the heads of your customers and then you’ll know how to talk to them and know how to sell them.
Bronson: Another thing I want to talk about is pricing. How do you guys price your offerings there at Storefront? Because I’m sure it’s been a difficult thing trying to figure out how to price this stuff. And I think you guys have actually come to some unique conclusions on that.
Matt: Yeah, pricing is a really interesting thing. So I’ve worked in a lot of different space. I’ve worked in software as a service preview, which I actually feel like. Pricing is very, very easy in that category because you can kind of just high ball people and see what they end up on and they just start to see some trends. For a marketplace, it’s a lot different. It’s been interesting. So we started off by just letting people put their prices up or whatever, which is fine. And I think that you have to start with kind of the market decides the price, right? And so then we started to pay attention to like what spaces were doing well, what categories are doing really well. And we’re able to kind of land more of a helping hand to folks when they’re when they’re listing. So I think one thing that marketplaces do in terms of pricing, one thing that we try to do is just try to share best practices with your customers and try to, you know, nudge them along. I think if you look at a lot of the open marketplaces that are out there online today, I think they have much more of an impact on pricing than people would guess. They kind of tell you what they think that you’re worth. You know, eventually they have enough data where they can do some modeling, some machine learning or whatever and say, hey, this is this is what you should be pricing based on your area. But it has been a definitely has been a challenge for us because we’re kind of also doing a new category here, like short term retail space or short term space in general. Pop ups is is very, very new. So nobody really knows what to price. So we get industry experts that are like, well, you know, what should we list this at? What do you recommend? And then we kind of just help them to say, you know, you should you should go with your gut. You may you may say, okay, a 12 month lease cost this maybe I’ll add 5% on because it’s a premium because it’s short term or something like that. So we also have baked in a little bit of kind of like negotiation process in the site. Oftentimes people that rent through the site and are looking at longer periods of time and then what it’s listed for, they’re able to come to some sort of conclusion with the seller on the on the side that like, hey, this is probably on a price that we could agree upon. But yeah, I think the pricing is really important and I do think it’s really tough. And I don’t think, you know, from what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think that any of these come out with any like great pricing software or anything like that. I think I’ve I’ve seen a couple of people do that is like a startup concept, but then they haven’t made it very far because I think it’s just something you have to test and kind of like get a gut feel for and look at the data as.
Bronson: Well, especially when you’re in a market that’s so new like you all. I mean, there’s no one else I know of doing short term rental spaces like this. And so there’s not a lot to go on in terms of historical successes on how to do it.
Matt: I don’t know how this happened, but I really actually have like a history of starting out. Companies that aren’t like that are they’re very new. I don’t really think about it when that happens. They just get excited about them. So I almost every sales and in in the last five or six years has been something where it’s very evangelical and you’re, you know, you’re pioneering new territory and figuring things out. And I think that, you know, oftentimes you’re pricing lower than what you should be. Actually, I think people get too excited about that. And especially it’s a longer term sales process. Where I’m talking face to face is somebody be okay with going above and beyond because you can read their body language and you know, and then you can retweet if you need to. It’s early on and you say a number and they’re like, you know, you could do something like, okay, so it’s, you know, it looks like you’re probably, you know, having a vomit type reactions depressing. You know, we’re still trying to figure out what the sweet spot is here. So maybe you can give us some some understanding of what your budget is or what, you know, what what you would be reasonable. I’m not saying we’ll find common ground, but will get us closer to finding common ground.
Bronson: Well, let’s talk about that for a minute, because I think that’s huge. You know, you read any book on negotiation, which they’re written like kind of this big, you know, partnership level deals. And what they always say is the first price, the first number you put out is really important because you can’t go above that. That first number you ever speak, you can now no longer charge more than that because that’s anchored in their mind as the high and they’re going to try to work you down from there. So you have to start much higher then you’re actually okay with ending up at in order to do a decent, you know, sell cycle. But the same thing is true I think with online products as well. And I’ll just say this even though it’s not necessarily for storefront is if you start high with a SAS product now, you can give them a discount, you know, but if you start at the price you actually are okay with now you can’t give them a discount or it cuts into your margins, it cuts into the amount you want to make. So just always start way higher than you’re comfortable. The market will scream at you and tell you what you should do, and then you have room to give discounts and read body language and get down to a better number. Right?
Matt: Yeah. And, you know, reach out to somebody that you would really trust to give you an accurate perception of. Like if you have a friend that is in a would be buyer of your service or like actually try and tell them like be honest, if you were going to buy this, what do you think you’d pay and then add like 10% to that ten, 15 or 100%. Yeah. Or 100 different at least.
Bronson: The first time. And make it way high.
Matt: Yeah. Yeah. No. Yeah. I think that, you know, there’s a lot of scenarios where you want to add prices on, you know, one that you experience when you’re doing a. Enterprise sales is sometimes there’s procurement groups whose sole job is to take a chunk out of your pricing. So in order to make them happy, add some pricing on to their add some numbers on to the beginning so that when you’re talking to that procurement group, you know, you’re talking to your contact who is like, Oh, we need to just kind of make well done. You know, we’re going to be talking to your procurement group who’s going to want to take a chunk out of this as well. So why don’t we go with this? You pass this on to this. I know you want to get this through. I do, too. This actually gives us some room, some leverage to work with that group. We can get it going after that. So I think the scenario that people don’t see coming very often, it’s pretty rough the first time if if you get to a point where you’ve depleted all your kind of negotiation levers as as you are, as you pointed out. So I couldn’t agree more here.
Bronson: Yeah. And you talk about procurement and online. We have affiliates, you know, and they’re going to take their pound of flesh. So you either do leave room in the margin. And so there’s all these things people don’t think about. But, you know, the process is not just you and customer. Sometimes there’s people in the middle and you want to leave that room there. Now, another thing that you’ve done with these companies is really work through the pitch materials. And my guess is it’s really important for storefront because you’re dealing with physical retail space and they’re used to dealing with those kind of things. But what role do pitch materials play?
Matt: Yeah. So that’s you know, that’s a really interesting question because in the beginning of my sales career and still now I’m kind of a pen and paper salesman. I think a lot of people like to attach like, say like a one pager collateral to their emails as they send them out. And I think there is a place for those. Mainly, I think the place for those is after you’ve communicated with somebody on their end and then you can actually go ahead and they can share that internally. So I think it’s the most pitched materials are actually great for them for your contact to use internally to help kind of continuously sell throughout their their organization. That’s one place that I think is really great. But I also think it’s really helpful if you just kind of get a general base deck and or a proposal or presentation. A lot of people have different words they use for we talk, we call them decks. But basically I think it’s great to have that general base presentation or deck to go through on one. It’s a good exercise in product marketing for you to like, what’s our story, right? Because most of them should really be a story. You don’t want to just hand out a fact sheet. You want it to be like in the beginning, this is the problem we saw. Now here is this machine, etc. and kind of move on down the line. I think it’s very helpful. It’s very difficult. I think people don’t think it’s as hard as it is. But if you’re really doing a good job, there’s a story arc there and it all makes sense and it goes it goes well together. Then you present that internally, you all the people on the same page. Because remember, not everybody in your company is in customer meetings, not everybody is on the front lines talking to customers. So it’s also your job to kind of help out internally, too, for everybody to understand. You know, here’s why we’re selling it this way here. Here’s why the company exists and you’re what happens. And I think people take for granted how much people please understand that. So I think it’s helpful in that way. And I think the biggest part of it, honestly, is, is getting you to feel the story all the way through from the start to finish and feel good about it. You know, in Storefront, it started off as really important for us at first and it became less and less. More of what we’re been focusing on now is, is marketing materials and case studies. Our case studies have been really huge because we’re primarily dealing with a market that’s not been accessible for people for a long time. So when they see other people like them doing it, they it’s it’s just really helpful and kind of inspiring them. You know, in the beginning, pop up was really only people that were trendsetters that were really like, you know, daring to be different, honestly. And like long before we came along, right? People were doing this. All the Halloween stories you see every year, seasonal stories or whatever they are, you know, Spirit, Halloween opens up a thousand stores, a thousand plus stores every year around Halloween. And then they take them down, you know, after the Halloween season’s over. And that wasn’t that’s not that wasn’t standard practice back when they started doing that. So materials that help people relate and kind of, you know, I think it’s cheaper than ever to get a video made to. Right. There’s all these like younger people that are getting into video and they’re they’re starting off their businesses and they’re willing to do great, great work for cheap. You see all these amazing videos on YouTube. Those people are hirable, right? So don’t be afraid to get a good video, some customers early on and get them talking about your business. That’s done wonders for us. Our videos are fantastic and often it’s often been our cheapest videos because some of our most expensive videos haven’t actually done as well as the cheaper ones. So that’s yeah, it’s, it’s kind of funny. Yeah. We have this lot we did out New York launch party and we did a slow motion video booth. The video is great, but it’s gotten less views than a lot of our really basic videos that we just did in the early days. So and I kind of organize that. So I kind of feel, feel bad about it.
Bronson: Because it was all the Halloween theme to it is that that one what’s up? The Halloween theme to it, the Jason mask in there or something? Is that it or different?
Matt: So that was that was us getting on the Harlem Shake train really late that that one actually was it wasn’t wasn’t very expensive and it was a lot of fun. And so that one is worth it. There’s one more that’s called the slo mo, the slo mo video booth where we had a phantom camera that takes like 1500 frames per second. And so you get in there and you do some actions, but then it’s slowed down and replay. This one’s on Vimeo. I’ll send it to link afterwards.
Bronson: Yeah. Maybe we’ll get the views up for you so you don’t get to feel that.
Matt: Is what you do. It’ll make me look a lot better with my company than I do right now for that project then.
Matt: But everybody that was at the party had a great time doing it, so we’ve got a lot of offline impressions. There we go with an offline company.
Bronson: So yeah, it works. You’re doing things differently. So we’ll talk through some of the components of a sales process. You need messaging employees internally, externally, you need pricing. You need to understand the negotiation process, the pitch materials online and offline, and what you’re actually giving to people inside the organization to make the sale for you, what you’re giving the people that are interested in you. Are there any other components, big components that we’ve left out that you really have to tackle early on in a company as you’re figuring out your sales process? Anything else come to your mind?
Matt: Yeah. You know, there’s a million different types of sales processes, right? There’s inside sales. There’s outside sales there. It’s just straight up online marketing. Right. And for some categories, online marketing is going to be better. So I would say that I think the biggest challenge for the organization is knowing when to transition, right? So I was kind of touching on the earlier when I was talking about seeding the marketplace. There was a there was a point where all I was doing like basically not everything, but like my main focus was just go out and be in front of brokers and landlords and retailers and space owners, etc. So we were just doing that nonstop and doing these in-person meetings which aren’t the most scalable thing in the world, which is fine, but those face to face kind of like relationships helps help start us off on a longer term relationships with those people as soon as they started to see success through the platform. But it was also necessary, right? Because if you went to our site at the time, we had very few listings, right? And in order for a marketplace to look like something that’s like a good thing to do, it has to have a lot of content on there, a lot of listings. So we didn’t have online credibility, couldn’t send you to the site to give you prep for you to feel like we were credible, right? So being in front of people and establishing rapport and, you know, talking to them and like getting them to trust you personally is the way that you establish credibility like that early on. So that was that was huge for us. But now it’s less of a focus for us because now we have enough listings on our site where people go to and they’re like, Okay, yeah, this is a real thing. This is something they do. They’re taking professional photos. Look how beautiful some of these listings look. So knowing when to transition away from doing those things, I think is one of the toughest things. There’s a a blogger named Jason Lumpkin, who is the CEO of Echo Scion. Formerly, he bought blogs on a site called Sastre. And one of his great articles is about the different types of VP of sales and when to hire them. Right. And there’s very few people in his article, he says they very few people that have made it from the start all the way to a finish. And we’re talking SaaS companies like enterprise ones, you’re looking for like $100 million in revenue and on for some for some VP of sales, which is really, really big numbers. So when you’re talking about a startup person, that’s like a person you want to just like get their hands dirty, get in, get messy. They don’t care if it’s grunt work. They’re they’re cool. They just want to see the needle move a little bit, right and like, get things going. And then as you move along, things change. And maybe they’re not the right person for the job anymore. And I think that’s a has to do is due to a lot of people not like adapting and seeing that there’s new things that they need to do and they need to be evolving. And, you know, there probably will be a time where storefronts like, sorry, Matt, you got to get the hell out of here because you can’t you can’t you can’t carry us over the goal line anymore or something like that. But you know, I try my damnedest to like see ahead of time like where is where things moving. And right now we’re moving towards more of a marketing organization than we are a straight up sales organization, which my past sales. So therefore I’m learning more about marketing and like, you know, digging in, right? So I think that the toughest part is that when do you stop customer development and move into something that like is repeatable and he’s doing it right. So I would also recommend people read the book Predictable Revenue. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but it’s a great sales process book on how can you kind of not not just automate, but how can you segment up your sales process in a way and put it up in a way that will help you produce repeatable results and the numbers from that. And then, you know, in your investor meetings or whoever you’re presenting to, they’re going to feel a lot better about the numbers that you have to show them.
Bronson: Yeah, you know, that word again comes up process. It really is about having a process, something that’s repeatable and not just trying random things that don’t fit into some overall strategy. You said something I think is important is that, you know, we usually think about the founders being ousted because they’re not the kinds of people that can really grow the company. That’s why it’s rare to have a Bill Gates and a Zuckerberg because they stuck around the whole time. But your point is true that it’s also the same thing for other roles in the company. The marketing person may be good early on and not later on unless they really learn to adapt and grow and figure out what’s around the corner and to use the over quoted Gretzky, quote, Skate toward the puck’s going. Not where it’s been, you know, figure out what tomorrow is. Not what we did yesterday.
Matt: For sure. You know, I think if you read Steve Blank’s book about the Four Steps of Epiphany, his book, the early customer development stuff, one of the things he says there is like VP of sales are like some of the first people to go because there are too early or what they’re hired for is too early. Right. It’s like before you find product market fit, before there’s a repeatable process. So their expectations that they’re expected to to to produce the results are expected produce don’t happen. Right and people I believe but I think I think you’re right when it’s like actually like a much broader problem. I think the problem a widespread in society actually but you have a generation we’re coming out of the generation of people that were able to do the same thing over and over every day their entire lives, not move up, not move down. And some of them end up without jobs when life. With no new skills. So I think it’s much more of a learning economy these days. And, you know, I can’t tell you, like, you know, how how much better I am because I’m an active learner. And, you know, I meet with people. I try to understand what other people are doing. How did how did you overcome this challenge? Whatever. And there’s just so much at our fingertips. You talk about Udemy, you talk about any online courses, growth or TV. Like these are the things people should be doing to learn more skills so that they protect themselves and that they also bring value to their company. Right? Like, it’s not a company’s responsibility to employ you. It’s your responsibility to continually be employable. And I think that’s like, you know, coming from like the pension era into now, that’s not something that everybody is doing. And, you know, I think that another great book, Pratt, is the start up review by Reid Hoffman and it’s got the first chapter is fantastic. It’s great about how to like look at yourself and how to improve on those things. What are the market realities? What are the assets I have and how do I combine those together to make myself employable and make make it so that people want to work with me and then I’m adding a lot of value to the company.
Bronson: Yeah, and that’s another keyword. Just add value. I just feel like all of business revolves around that word. You add value to your business, then you’ll stay employed. Probably. Does your business add value to the customers, then you’ll always have new ones. I mean, it’s just about value. And that’s why the old era is you can stay even if you’re not valuable because you’ve been around so long. Now it’s all about value, provide value or do something else. And so people just have that mentality. They’ll know what to do next, which is to learn things that give you more value to the people you’re around. And then you’ll be fine in the future.
Matt: Yeah. Knowing your friends, being friends with your coworkers is not enough. You know, exactly at this point, like, people get comfortable because they start to like, oh, that person, you know, they love me. They would never get rid of me. Well, you know, they also have to protect the other people in their company and themselves in the company. Right. So.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk about kind of you mentioned you went before people doing things that didn’t scale, having these one on one conversations. And you guys have gone to 150 stores now. Did you get to all hundred and 50 through those kind of conversations, or was there a point in there where you stopped having conversations and all of a sudden they’re finding the website and starting to contact you? Talk me through that process a little bit.
Matt: Yeah, yes. It’s a very unique transition and we probably didn’t key into it as early as we could have. I think that’s probably always the case for stuff like this. For us, the supply side, the listing side was actually the harder side to seed. It turns out that a lot of retailers want to do pop up shops and a lot of retailers want to do it offline and it makes sense now. I’ve never been like a straight up retailer myself. Like anything I’ve ever tried to sell is mostly digital or software or something like that. So when you look at people that are kind of like the up and coming brand to start off in a city where to start, they like flea markets, they go to events, they try to sell at events. You know, if you just look at the people that are around you that are selling products like physical products and they’re hustling. These are the types of things they do right? They know just get in front of your customers. Go where your customers are, right? So offline stores represent that just as much as on my stores. And in fact, you know, it might be easier to get a tent on a main street somewhere in a store than it is to get attention online. Among a sea of other ecommerce stores that sell the same product is you, right? Maybe you’re next door to a dry cleaner and on the other side is a restaurant and you’re the only operation that does something in town. Right. So there’s also other other things like scarcity there. So for us, for us, the retail side, the demand side has always been there. They’ve always they found us organically at first. Now they find us through our system, through a series of systems, whether that’s, you know, paid channels, organic SEO, all kinds of stuff. They’ve they’ve they’ve always found us. And so for us, it was actually like seeding the marketplace, getting the supply side to be there. And now the supply side, there’s enough word of mouth for people that are having like positive experience and getting repairs, right? You put some money in people’s pockets, they’re going to come back. So we’ve seen a lot of people just come back and also tell their friends about it, etc.. So it’s it’s been a positive experience in terms of like when we when did we start going out, do meetings. We haven’t really stopped. We just don’t proactively plan them as much. There’s a board meetings to be had and still face to face stuff to be had. If you look if you email me and you’re a small retailer, I’m going to respond to you and we’re going to talk about stuff and we’re going to help you as much as we can, because you never want to stop establishing those long term and long term relationships with people that even if they’re small now, they have a chance to grow. So I think we do our best to to respond on people as quickly as possible. We get a ton of incoming emails. And so that’s its own problem. Inbound stuff is can be a problem sometimes, but.
Bronson: It’s a good problem. Most people want to have that problem and yeah.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, it is it is a good problem. It is a good problem to have. And then. You go back to like messaging, right? Then your messaging becomes important because you’re getting inbound from a bunch of people that you shouldn’t be. Then it’s like, well, what’s, you know, what about my messaging is attracting those people. Maybe I need to, you know, kind of narrow it down and only focus on getting incoming inbound traffic from qualified leads. Maybe I’m working with a bunch of people that aren’t my customers, right? So but then sometimes it’s also just like letting you know and verifying who your customers are. So you got to be careful. You got to kind of listen to you, listen to your gut sometimes, and then also the data and kind of mix those things together and make a good decision. But I would say to your point, like, you know, when do you stop kind of doing face to face meetings and, you know, maybe you stop proactively and as many of them, but never stop like having meaningful conversations with your clients or would be clients. I would say.
Bronson: No. Make sense.
Matt: Make time for.
Bronson: It. Yeah. And to the Internet marketing kind of things you mentioned in there was paid in SEO. When you’re doing paid in SEO, are you which side of the market are you focusing on with storefront? Are you focused on trying to get people that have space or people that want space?
Matt: People that want space? So first off, I paid isn’t as huge for us as like organic and then outreach, outbound outreach has been for us. That’s been our primary growth channel so far and word of mouth is also really he so let me say.
Bronson: Outbound an outreach. You mean like literally emailing them because you’ve found bills.
Matt: Calls, tweets, all kinds of spam.
Bronson: Going after them.
Matt: We’re very transactional process, right? Like we can tell within ten and 15 minutes. If you want to work with us on either side of the equation, it’s not a long sales cycle. So you basically like start conversations, you know, on whatever medium it is, we start conversations and then we explain, you know, what it is we’re doing and why we why we reached out in the first place and why it’s valuable. And usually people are like about it or they’re not. And we’re still in that. We’re still in that mode of like working with people that are pretty much just about it every now and then. Some people have a misconception at that point. You want to obviously overcome that objection. But if somebody is like philosophically against what we’re doing or like thinks it’s a waste of time for them, I’m not going to like argue with them for ten or 15 minutes because I could sign up to other customers during that time. Yeah, because it’s so fast, right? It’s such a fast process. So for us, there’s not many there’s not many suppliers, a supply side folks yet that are out looking to like pop up space and not looking online to do it. They just like make it known in their in their local economy that they’re doing this right for us. They’re for paid stuff for like the the supply side of things hasn’t been a huge channel for us yet. I think that’ll definitely change as we get more people aware of what we’re doing and more people aware of pop up in that. It’s a possibility, right? So we’re still kind of educating a market right now so that I think Paid operates a lot differently when it’s not like a common thing that you’re looking for or a common problem that everybody has. I mean, it is a common problem that everybody has, but not everybody knows that there’s a way to solve it.
Bronson: And who knows what words are using when they search for it. And it’s hard to buy those words when, you know, is it a pop up shop? Is it short term retail? Is it fill in the blank? You know something else?
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And some of those some of those some of those paid kind of searches work for us, but they’re just not huge yet because there’s not that many people looking looking in general for that kind of stuff. Our our content actually does more for us and the page.
Bronson: Yeah. You said something else I want to drill in on real quick. You said that, you know, there’s some people that just philosophically disagree with you. And I want to touch on that because I think any good business has people that philosophically disagree with them, because if you don’t have somebody that really disagrees with you, you may not be pushing things enough. You’re definitely not in a disruptive industry that’s moving very fast. And when you find somebody that is philosophically disagrees, let them like you can’t make somebody change their religion over email. It isn’t going to happen. So let them be who they are and move on to the next cell. I see that with growth out of TV, some people reach out to me. They don’t like it at all. That’s okay. You don’t have to. There’s a lot of people that do and we’ll do just fine with them with, you know, pop up shop. Obviously, a lot of people just hate the idea for whatever reason, let them. And so I just want to say, if a lot of people listening, let people that don’t like you fundamentally continue to dislike you fundamentally and do not lose any brain cycles, thinking about it, worrying about it, caring about it, or trying to convince them otherwise because it’s irrelevant to your long term success.
Matt: Yeah, I agree. And the longer the sales process, the more likely you are to spend a bunch of time on somebody that really actually isn’t interested at all and never will be. So, you know, some there’s a time to exercise, walk away power and like a power play type thing where you want to get a sale. But there’s also time to just walk away.
Bronson: Because you don’t care.
Matt: Yeah. Yeah. And I think the more that more that you get into those engagements where you can just get so pissed off because this person didn’t agree and you tried really hard and you got heated about it and they got heated about it. And then it’s like, Oh, that was extremely productive for me, you know? So I think that people learn that lesson the hard way typically.
Bronson: I think it also I think it also gives you false signals when you’re talking to people that fundamentally don’t like what you’re doing. They’re going to tell you all the things you should do and all the things you should change. But their opinion actually doesn’t mean that much because they’re not a loyal customer who wants to be better. They’re a hater who’s just talking. And so you actually don’t even get good customer development out of them a lot of times. So, I mean, you can, you know, keep a log of what they say, but don’t put near as much weight on that as the ones who actually have a Visa card out paying your money.
Matt: Right. I totally agree with that as well.
Bronson: Yeah. Now, you guys recently some fun to talk about. You recently raised a $1.6 million. If what the interwebs tell me is true. And it’s true. Yeah. So how do you guys plan on spending that money in terms of growth? Because, you know, my guess is you’re trying to grow and that’s one of your big focuses. So how do you allocate $1.6 million to further that agenda?
Matt: Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m really expensive now. Yeah. So that’s that’s a really good question. So we’re kind of you know, what I find interesting about our organization is we do a lot of kind of nontraditional things for the tech worlds. Like we met, we have like we do things like we print T-shirts, we have shopping bags, we print postcards. The type of thing that you’d see in a basic like, you know, in your general retail store, when you walk in, you go up to underpay, you see all these kind of like different types of advertisements, what things that look kind of like direct mailers. We don’t really do any direct mailing, but, you know, we’ve done a lot of kind of that street team type stuff that has worked really, really well for us. You see, example of that is we made some posters that just said, Hey, rent this space, you know, something really simple. And we did a pop up shop over at Westfield Mall and then we didn’t have anybody go into that store. This is right. In the early days after we did our first store, we didn’t have anybody to go in there. But lo and behold, we found out that malls in general hate vacant storefronts, obviously. Obviously they do, but they didn’t have anybody to go in there afterwards. So instead of putting like ugly advertising in there or whatever, they just were like, can you just keep your posters up in here and make it look nice and just say, Hey, like this space is rentable? And it turns out that our interests in those points were aligned, right? We wanted somebody rent through us, and they also did as well. So we left our stuff up in there. And like the the amazing effect that that particular thing had was that there was some a mother and daughter that sell together on Etsy that make some stuff in their free time. They sell together. And that scene, they’re walking to the mall, they’re like, Oh my God, I never knew that I could actually, like, open a store in the mall. It’s an accessibility thing where they never knew that this is something that’s reasonable to expect that somebody locally could do that. They walked into the leasing office, started talking to them, and then eventually they referred them back to the site and they were there to just start renting from us. And we wouldn’t have had that experience had we not kind of explored those, those other channels. So I’d say we do a like a, a fair mix of old school and new school together and then we try to combine them whenever possible. So that’s one way that we, you know, obviously are spending money on those kinds of marketing materials, which I think a lot of online companies will never do. But we deal so much with the physical world that it makes sense for us. Um, one thing that we’ve definitely been doing is throwing like actual pop ups ourselves. Usually like a one night type of annual kind of like party. We invite people that are local based owners or local retailers, etc. They come meet us and they kind of, you know, enjoy what we’re doing. You feel for the real the real deal, the real offline experience. And that’s been just tremendous. Our launch party in New York got ridiculously out of hand and oversubscribed. Actually, we we had we had a space that legally pulled 80 people, eight zero. And we at the beginning, the week we had like 300, 400 recipes, which was normal for us. So that’d be over the course of 5 hours. Those types of people would come in and it got leaked out to some, some sort of like event blog and over 2000 people RSVP by the time the party had happened. And so we found ourselves like hiring security guards with this huge line around the block. It looks like we’re like honestly look like we had like some celebrities coming in here.
Bronson: So that’s great.
Matt: So it was a great problem to have, but also very, very stressful because I was like, I felt bad that the people were in the line for so long, but the event turned out to be great. So those are some of the things that that we do obviously with that money. And, you know, same hiring, I mean, personnel is like the biggest expenses that you can have in a startup. Yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of, that’s what we’ve been up to.
Matt: And the space and all that.
Bronson: Yeah. It’ll be great watching storefronts kind of progress from here on out to close out here. Let me let you plug a few things because you’re involved in some other cool stuff now I think this audience will know about. One of them is a Udemy course you have coming out, and as soon as you told me about it before we started recording, I was very excited about it. Yeah. So tell me about what you got going on there.
Matt: Yeah. So, um, you know, recently, I had recently been trying to teach myself how to code and I’m still learning that, that skill set. I think that it’s a really awesome thing to learn. But one reasons I want to learn how to code is guys saw how value scraping long as like if you’re in a sales role or even in a marketing and you’ve ever gone about doing list building or trying to build a list, it’s incredibly infuriating and it takes a long time and especially building like a sales list of people to reach out to. So like, you know, point and click, it’s one of the most mind numbing activities that you can honestly do. So one thing that’s great for that is scraping and using, scraping, going out and having a machine essentially go out and collect it for you off sites rapidly. Not only can you be more targeted and more accurate than buying like a term, say, like some sort of list, service, etc. Them are really great. Like, for instance, you had I Ilya from mixed rank on mixed rank data yet don’t take that as a diss against somebody like I’m. But we’ve used a lot of other list services before that just really haven’t had the quality of data that we wanted. So I came across some software called Import IO, which has been just revolutionary in terms of like what I can do as an, as a semi non-technical person. And even that is still there. There it still does take a little kind of like technical know how to kind of understand how scrapers work, etc.. So I’m putting a course together on for non-technical people on Udemy to learn how to make, you know, most websites that are out there, there’s still some things that will be tough for you, like scraping Google is very difficult thing all the tricks because they have and I think for Google but it’s going to it’s going to have a recipe it’s like I call them recipes but it’s like recipes are like Yelp went to Twitter, handles information off Angela’s Crunchbase, all these different sites. So that scraping tool and that course will be coming out here in the next couple of weeks and I’ll make sure that I get you guys a code. And so all the growth to be customers going to price for free.
Bronson: So it’ll be great. And then that one tool is it at import dot I. Oh is that where to find that tool. Yeah. Yeah I it’s a good one in essence.
Matt: Awesome team over there, fantastic customer service and support. It’s still right. So they do have some tweaks and some bugs and stuff. They actually say that right the top of their little browser in there. But yeah, that course will be out to have all the videos recorded. I’m just putting everything together right now is great.
Bronson: And then another thing you’re involved with is the Sales Hacker Conference, and so it’s a conference coming up. But I believe up until now it’s been kind of a monthly meet up that you’ve done there in San Francisco. So tell us real quickly, if somebody is interested in that conference, who’s it for and can they still get tickets?
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s Sales Hacker Conference, Scott. You can still get tickets. It’s next week on October 17th. It is a conference for anybody that is, you know, endeavoring out to do a sales process. I think it’s really valuable for people that are early in their sales process, but it’s also very valuable for people that are veterans and sales leaders. It’s great because there’s all these folks that are just extremely experienced talking about different ways to leverage new software, new techniques and essentially tank work that would take you. The example would be like this used to take me 10 hours, now it takes me 10 minutes because of all these, you know, techniques and different software I’m using, combining them together to make this awesome process. And that’s that’s how the meeting started. We were just a bunch of, you know, founders in sales and sacks, etc., getting together, talking about strategies that work for us and then sharing and learning from each other. And so we wanted to take that and put it on a bigger platform. And it’s a shout out to my buddy Max Altschuler, who’s really running the whole show. I’m kind of tangentially involved, so he’s doing the majority of the work and he’s got ridiculous speakers lined up for this. That book I mentioned, Predictable Revenue earlier. Aaron Ross is going to be there at the blog Sastre, the former CEO of Axion. Jason, again, great speaker. He’s going to be there as well as a host of other folks. Ilya from Mixer Frank is speaking. So there’s a lot of great to be had and I’m I’m personally like I am helping organize but I’m going to learn a time the day off so I’m really excited for it.
Bronson: That’s the way it goes. What sounds like a great event. I have one last question for you here. I asked this all my guest to kind of close out. You know, it’s a high level question. You obviously don’t know the specifics of anybody listening, but what’s the best advice that you have for any startup is trying to grow?
Matt: Best advice for any startup that’s trying to go grow. You know, it’s really overused, but just like go talk to customers, be in front of people. The more time you spend in a room with somebody, the more you get to know your market. So in the beginning, don’t be afraid to just, you know, blitz people and get in front of them and be in the room, in the room with people reading body language, reading their reactions, getting to know their real things. The only other thing I would say is this probably something that people don’t also say, but get them out of the room as well. Right. So that everybody says, get out of the room, go talk to people, get them out of their office as well. Take them to a bar, have a happy hours like that, go to a coffee shop, whatever. Get them out of their environment as well. That’s where you abolish real relationships with people in a more casual setting. So, you know, you can if you can get those really, really genuine awesome relationships out of the gate with perfect customers of yours, you’re going to be doing a lot better because they’ll be a great sounding board for you as time goes on and you can talk to them in a way that you wouldn’t be able to talk to just any customer, right? Like you can really get real back from them and, you know, take, take, take the feedback on the chain as well. Don’t don’t shy away from, like, them telling you where your products are.
Bronson: Yeah, well, that’s great advice. Matt, it’s been an awesome interview. Thank you so much for coming on Growth after TV.
Matt: Thank you very much for having me.
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