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Audio and Photo Source: Lauren Hall and Privy
Listen to our Founder and CEO, Orion Brown, dish out her best marketing secrets to the host of The Ecommerce Marketing Show. How do you create a compelling story? How can you leverage inspiration from other brands? And what is it like being featured on Beyonce's website? You've got to listen below to find out.
Episode also available on:Apple Podcasts
The Ecommerce Marketing Show with Privy
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You're listening to The ECommerce Marketing Show presented by Privy.
Dave Gerhardt (00:27):
Hey everybody. Thanks for listening to another episode of The eCommerce Marketing Show. My guest today is Orion Brown and she is the founder and CEO of BlackTravelBox. And I just said, let's stop talking. We've got to hit record because I want to hang out with you and have this conversation. So Orion, good to meet you. I want to do just a quick intro and background on who you are for everybody.
Orion Brown (00:47):
Sure. Thank you so much for having me. I really love kind of listening to the content and seeing the content you guys put out. So it's exciting to be here. As you said, my name's Orion Brown, I'm the Founder of The Black Travel Box. We're a personal care products company for travelers of color. My background is actually pretty varied, but I came up in consumer goods marketing, but the latest iteration of my career on the food side. So taking those skills and kind of bringing them to the beauty space is a unique and challenging opportunity for me. But I've been really having a lot of fun doing it.
Dave Gerhardt (01:16):
I want to rewind back a little bit. So people want the tactics. And so they get mad when I do this, but I don't care. This is what I want to do. And I want to listen and to hear your story. So your background is brand management brand strategy by trade. Now that I know. Okay, so you were at Kraft, so like literally the biggest food brand in the world doing brand management, like what did you do there? What was your experience?
Orion Brown (01:39):
So I came up on what would be considered sort of the standard track of brand management, going up through the ranks on a numerous businesses. And so I've worked on everything from Capri Sun, where we're marketing to very challengingly enough, both kids and adults, right? You need to get mom to actually pay for it and want to put down the cash, but you want the kids actually be interested in it. And you have to be, for lack of a better term, moral about how you talk to kids. Here's a shiny thing. Isn't necessarily the nicest way to go about doing those things. That was a great consumer brand that I worked on. Maxwell House coffee. I led longterm strategy for did pricing strategy, all kinds of cool stuff, as well as led the A1, Grey Poupon and CoolWhip brands for a time. It's really fun. You get very fat.
Orion Brown (02:24):
It just is, kitchens are right there. There's nothing you can do. Part of your job is to sample things. You know, I really built up with brand marketing in those businesses and within the way that Kraft does it, it's really a P and L management role. So you are mini CEO of your business. So the smallest business that I worked on as a part of my portfolio was a $30 million business and the largest was a billion dollar business global brand. So it's an interesting world and it's very different from entrepreneurship, especially when you're just starting.
Dave Gerhardt (02:53):
It's interesting though, because so many of those things you're meant to be a CEO basically that was like training ground to do what you're doing.
Orion Brown (03:01):
Yes, definitely. In a way, I think it provided a really strong sort of strategic foundation, but I will say, and I'm sure we'll get to the idea of like, what do you have to unlearn? What do you have to kind of like get out of your head from being corporate? And frankly, it was nice having an uncle with deep pockets that you could go to annually and plan for next year. And this is what I want to go do. And I need more minions to go do this for me. So those are some of the unlearning where you have to give yourself a little bit more patience and grace, because at least for me, I've learned that I actually have to learn the technicality of getting these things done. Not just the why should we do them.
Dave Gerhardt (03:42):
A hundred percent as somebody who's been like in the startup kind of tech world. What's interesting is how you can really be hit or miss with hiring people from big companies, because the key is to do what you said, which is like, all right, it's great to have that framework. Like you read those books, you know the playbook, but can you unlearn it? And then like tap into that muscle again, when you might need it down the road, I want to talk about your business because people want to know about your background, but they want to know about the business that you built, the brand that you've built. So when did you go and start? What was the founding story for The Black Travel Box? It always seems to be some moment with, especially like, okay, now that I know your full background, like great career in brand management, you've got an MBA at Duke. My guess is this whole time you weren't thinking about this is the business that I'm going to start to, like, what was the catalyst for this whole movement?
Orion Brown (04:27):
Oh yeah, no, I'm going to totally break the entrepreneur model because I feel like every entrepreneur interview starts with, so since I was five, I've known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and in the nursery at the hospital, I was selling nurses like pan embroidered masks, and I didn't sell lemonade.
Dave Gerhardt (04:44):
I was born a hustler in second grade. I used to hustle, you know, baseball cards and...
Orion Brown (04:50):
Exactly, exactly. And I was like, no, I read a lot full stop. So I wasn't that kid, I wasn't that kid in high school. I wasn't that kid in college. God bless corporations and their biweekly paychecks and really good insurance. Those are things that I appreciated very much, but for me, the impetus for the company and actually the impetus for becoming sort of a full time entrepreneur was sort of parallel path. So the business itself, I just had an issue now that is within the mold of an entrepreneur, right? You hear a lot. Well, it came from my own challenge. And then I thought I started a company for me. It came from my own challenge over 15 years, being in the corporate space, two things that I loved about corporate besides my work was vacation time and pay. So pay me and then let me take that time off and go spend this money.
Orion Brown (05:36):
And that's what I did. That was my self care. And it was a really important part of my life and my balance because I'm a hard worker I've always been. And so as I would travel, I was on my 16, 17 country. And I'm like, every time I go somewhere, I have an issue. Whether it's running out of product, whether it's not finding the right things, it's definitely not finding the right things. I have been on the continent of Africa twice, and I still have not purchased hair and skincare products for myself there because the markets really are oriented towards European settlers travelers, all of that. And so it was a frustration point that finally, the funny part of the story is I was in Japan. I planned for Osaka, weather we stopped in Okinawa and I went full tilt frizz, and I was like, I don't have enough product to help me, I won't get more photos.
Orion Brown (06:25):
I'm like, I'm gonna take pictures of everybody else while I'm here. I will not be in these photos. And so I thought, you know, what, if there was a brand that actually knew that I exist in the world and actually created something to make this not for me. And that was the impetus. And it started as a passion project. I wasn't planning on doing it full time. I was doing it in between stuff as I was working. Technically I cornered myself by making an LLC. I literally did it on purpose. I incorporated the company to make sure that I would actually work on it.
Dave Gerhardt (06:54):
Is there some like legal, like, are you tied to that in some way?
Orion Brown (06:58):
It's a little bit psychological, but it's just having skin in the game. Llike, I paid money. I gave name to it. It exists in the world. I have a tax ID, which means the government knows I exist. Now. It's like a thing.
Dave Gerhardt (07:10):
It's a real, like psychological thing. I'm obsessed with like social psychology and in the book influence by Robert Cialdini, he talks about like, it's called commitment and consistency. And there's a whole study. Like it's why, like, if you declare on Facebook, I'm going to work out five times this week, because now you've said to the world, I am this person who does this. So like for you in your case, you're like, I am entrepreneur. Oh, like I got to actually go do this.
Orion Brown (07:34):
This business is legit. I mean, once you're a corporate entity, once you're an entity, whether you're a limited liability corporation or otherwise you die and pay taxes, just like regular people too. And I think that that was a motivation factor for me because that trip to Japan was in May. I didn't incorporate until August. And I spent the whole summer not working on this idea that I thought I should be working on. And so, I mean, even with that, you know, the holidays came and went and I would kind of think about it in the back of my mind. So I kind of floundered a little bit. And then really 2018 was the year that I was in sort of that parallel transition. So with BlackTravelBox, I started talking to customers or potential customers and saying, am I the only person that has this issue?
Orion Brown (08:17):
This is the idea that I have. What do you think about it? I did some surveys. I always start with consumer insights because why not? You know, it is the brand management in me because at the end of the day, one big, big lesson that I learned, because you know, often in brand management, you don't get the luxury of being the customer. Like you really don't get the luxury of being a consumer. You don't get the luxury. You know, men sell tampons all the time. It's fine. Women sell tires, whatever that's so sexist, but you get the idea. And so you kind of have to keep in mind that even if you think you are the consumer and I have really created this business around me as a consumer and saying, how do I amplify and scale up me by reaching an audience of me's out there. But I first wanted to really get some pressure tests. Like, am I truly a unique snowflake that no one else exists like me or are there other people? And so I spent that year kind of doing that work, that legwork, as well as building the brand aesthetic and those other things. And in tandem, I had had my fill of corporate over time. I was like, I don't want you to pay me anymore. Stop, please. Just stop. It's okay. I'm just going to go.
Dave Gerhardt (09:25):
I love it because I think you talked about like, I think empathy is the most underrated skill in marketing. And like a lot of us say that we have it, like I listen to customers, but like you took it another step. You're like, I am the customer but even still, that's not enough. I need to go get data points from other people because everybody kind of talks differently or has a different language or, you know, see things differently. And to get those data points, all right. For our audience. Like the thing that people are most interested in is the actual marketing side. Fast forward a little bit. The part that we don't talk a lot about, which is like kind of the crux of having a great brand is like having a product that people want. So like you went through that whole podcast, that could be somebody else's podcast, but like, I'm on your site right now. It's amazing. You got products, you got social proof. We'll talk about Beyonce and all this other stuff. But like when was the launch, did you do a big launch? Was it a slow drip or just all of a sudden, did this happen? Like what was the actual launch to now?
Orion Brown (10:19):
I would call it a runny nose launch. If we were to say a trip, it was a runny nose. So there's a few things. When you talk about the brand piece, the brand was actually the first thing that I established. Right? So as I'm doing that consumer insight work and kind of saying like, is there a reason for this to be, I was also in the background going, I know exactly what I want it to look like. And like going in to get that done and working with an amazing designer, I've found on Upwork and like figuring out what is the aesthetic of this brand. Because at the end of the day, the stuff that's in the jar, the stuff that's in the bar, this isn't rocket science. It's just that people aren't doing it secondarily to that, you know, at the end of the day, that means it's not insulated. So what do we really stand for? What is it that we're actually creating in the world? And so all the visuals and stuff, I will tell you, I am the butcher Baker and candlestick maker on this business. For the most part, I built the website, but it was also Shopify. So when I say I built it, I made it pretty.
Dave Gerhardt (11:10):
Did you write the copy "be ready, be present, be you clean; beauty essentials on the go for travelers of color?"
Orion Brown (11:16):
Yeah. And I, over time I've brought on different consultants in different aspects to help me flesh out some of those things, you know, at the end of the day, I could try to do it all, like truly do it all. I would never sleep. And you don't want me sleepy, like hangry and sleepy are not two things you don't want to see.
Dave Gerhardt (11:33):
Right. But somebody's doing it. You're outsourcing the work, but you're like probably still waist deep in it. Like you care about the message and the copy.
Orion Brown (11:41):
No. Yeah. I've been AB testing, all that copy. So the copy, you see now started out with working with somebody, getting somebody's suggestions, tweaking it, playing with it, and then putting it on the site, using tools like CrazyEgg to AB test and see what people actually are reacting to. Okay.
Dave Gerhardt (11:59):
How do you think about, from a marketing perspective... and I have your site up here now. How do you think about marketing? Like what purpose does your Shopify store have? And like, what do you want people to do?
Orion Brown (12:09):
So our store is the entree into the brand. So the way that I think about this and just to give you a little bit of background, sort of, I have a phased approach of how I'm bringing the brand to market. A lot of people go, I want to start a brand tomorrow. And then by Tuesday I want to be in target. And God bless target is very expensive to get into. You have to produce all the product to get in there. You need to make sure your product is moving. And companies like the Krafts of the world are spending millions of dollars that you're not even aware of to not only get the shelf placement, but to make sure that the pricing is so low, that you can't resist it so it turns. Those are not things that are typically healthy for a smaller business. Particularly if you don't have the marketing infrastructure in place, the machine, the millions to put in to drive massive amounts of awareness to get it turning at shell.
Orion Brown (13:00):
Because it takes a lot. I mean, people think about this. Like I find it hilarious to me and also sad that our political process is really similar in the sense that you can buy votes. The more you have to spend, this is why they build so much in their coffers is because the more attention you can buy from Americans or individuals, the more likely they're going to convert, I E vote. And so it's people vote with their money all the time. And so for me, retail is like our last launch, right? Once we've built up that cult following and the best way to reach exactly who you want to reach is to be digital. And so I'm trying, and I'm still working it out, but I'm trying to tell my story. I'm trying to tell our brand story and create engagement and create a community around it by starting out with our website.
Orion Brown (13:53):
And I can tell you, as we speak, there are things being planned and revamped. There are, there's copy, there's lists of things that need to be tested and played around with. Because I think we've all had the moment if you've ever sent an email to somebody and you're like, here's what's going on? Alright, cool. You're good. And the person's like, yeah. And then later you find out they had no idea what you were talking about. That happens. I feel like with copy and with websites, people are like, Oh yeah, I get what you're saying, but unless you really test it with where their dollars are going or talking to them, you'll never know if they're taking away the message that you want them to. And if that resonates.
Dave Gerhardt (14:30):
Got it. So, so like when you're, when you're running tests, what are you looking for? Cause I think AB testing is something that comes up a lot and I think a lot of people are obsessed with it for kind of the wrong reasons. Like I really want to test like, you know, and we'll get this question a lot, even at privy, like, can I do AB testing? And it's kind of like, yes, but, but why? And so I'm just like, I want to hear it in your words about like, what do you, what are you actually looking for? And like, how, give me maybe if you have an example of like something you've learned and a change you've made.
Orion Brown (15:02):
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So we can talk about that tagline and that initial copy and above the fold, right on our website, theblacktravelbox.com. You should go check it out. That's terrible. I had to, I had to plug it. Oh wow.
Dave Gerhardt (15:16):
I'm shamelessly plugging you the whole way. This is already like, this is part of the whole process. Like if the only I promise you that if the only way that people found out about your business was like, at this part of the interview, we would have a problem.
Orion Brown (15:30):
I love it. I love it. I love it. You know, so, so that section has had different tagline and headers. It's had different so many different iterations of the actual descriptive copy because ultimately, so here's what I want to happen. You see us somewhere, you might see us on social media. You might see me on something. You might hear me on a podcast. You might be a friend of a friend as somebody mentioned it too. So you're like, I kind of get it. It's some like body products. And I think it's for like people who are black, I don't know, like it's okay. Like our brains don't take all the pieces together. So what I need to do is very, very quickly when you get to the site, make sure you understand at least what our products are. And like, what are sort of high order benefit is like, what is it that you're giving me?
Orion Brown (16:20):
And so there's a lot of different ways to say that. So when I AB test it, there's a few things that I want to happen. One, I want to give them a story and it doesn't have to be a complete story. It could just be the highlights. Like, you know, I used to love reading cliff notes in high school. Cause God, that book was long, you know, that kind of thing. And so we want those cliff notes there, but I also want to make sure that as you go through the funnel and I'm not talking like, like funnels and all of that stuff, as you go through the process of being a customer, right? So I get to the site, I kind of know what you're about. Now. You tell me what you're about. If I click on a product page, if I click on an about us page, if I click anywhere else on the site, I want to make sure that it's consistent.
Orion Brown (17:04):
So the first thing, usually people are going for clicks, right? Or whatever, with AB testing, they're like, I want to see a conversion for me. I'm like one is the story compelling enough for you to go on and do something else on the site because this, the homepage doesn't do everything. We don't have like one of those singular page, endless scrolling, Mario brothers type pages where you're just doing, you're just one page. No, where else to go. And so I want you to go to other places because that means that you're engaged and you will likely purchase cause you can't actually purchase on that page. Look at that. And so can I make it compelling enough for you to move forward, but not only that things can be compelling for the wrong reasons, right? Hey, you could win a million dollars psych. Now you're pissed off. So no one wants to see that.
Dave Gerhardt (17:52):
Yeah, I think like when we talk about, so, so my background is not in eCommerce. And so like, what's fun about my role as CMO here is like the fun part about doing this podcast is I'm actually interviewing you just cause I'm curious. And I want to try to get answers out for our, for our audience. Right? But like one thing that comes up a lot that I've heard is like people asking about conversion rate and benchmarks for conversion rate. And the example that you just said is perfect because it's like, well, conversion rate. I don't know, there isn't a good benchmark because like every, everything is different. If I have a, if I have an ad that says click here and I'll give you $500 right now and it's verified and guaranteed, like the conversion rate on that ad is going to be through the roof.
Dave Gerhardt (18:33):
And so you can't look at it just in that one thing. I think the part that you mentioned that's really important is to be able to like lay out the full funnel and think about if somebody sees this ad and then goes to this part of my site and then clicks through to this, explore the collection page. And then they go to the cloth performance mask and then they either check out or they don't like, that's the whole like funnel experience that, that that's where the magic really happens. Not just like tweaking one thing here.
Orion Brown (19:01):
Exactly, exactly. And, and the thing is, is when people talk about funnels and you know, they make it more complicated than it needs to be. So even to your point about the numbers, like the numbers are sort of arbitrary. Cause at the end of the day, it's like, do you have a sustainable funnel? Unless they are sustainable, I don't care if you're converting a half a percent or a 20%, like if you're converting at 20%, but it costs you millions of dollars and all your time to get that those conversions like in like you're only, you only have five people interested in you. And so if two or three of them convert, well, we have a great conversion rate, but it's only five people and how much revenue are you getting out of it? So it just has to be sustainable. And I think one of the things people miss is, you know, I'm in beauty companies like Sephora that sell online, I guarantee their conversion rates are like abysmal because they, they drive so much traffic.
Orion Brown (19:55):
Right. They have so much money to drive traffic. So the conversion rate looks abysmal in sort of like the grand scheme of things. So I say all that to say, keep it simple and then really think about what their experience is. You don't want to bait and switch. That's an old school, like 1930s put one thing in the window and then have it inside at a different price at a different size and all of that. Right. And so if you can do that, people like you more, cause you don't suck. They like you as a person, as a brand person.
Dave Gerhardt (20:26):
How do you do that? Like maybe this is like a Shopify set up thing where like how, how do you do that with so many different products? Cause like, is it crazy to have to think about like, cause like your collection page, I don't know, there's probably 20 products on here. I don't know how many you have. How do you think about each one of those? Cause each one of those products could be its own funnel and like, is there, is there a way to think about that overall? So like that simple.
Orion Brown (20:52):
Yeah. I think there's a couple things and like I'm not a guru by any stretch, but what I would say is if you're starting out with your brand foundations, your brand foundations are your, your brand mission, your values, your ethos what your philosophy, your product philosophy is. Especially if you're a manufacturer, if you're not a manufacturer, your drafts are, but it's a little bit different, but even still, you could still say everything we have is fluffy and soft and wonderful. And if it doesn't induce a coma, we don't sell it. Like that is a great, which, by the way, I saw an ad that said coma, inducer for like these blankets. And I was like, that is the best piece of marketing I've seen in a very long time. But if you, so if you have that in place, everything you do, like when you're, if you're getting a secondary person to do your copy, are you doing yourself?
Orion Brown (21:41):
Your brief should say, this is what we believe. And it should permeate everything that you're doing. And then it's just about execution, right? So again, it's fluffy the right word or is tufted, the right word is my CLA you know, is my customer more elegant? And they want to feel like it's special and velvet or do they want to just, you know, that's so fluffy like that, that's the kind of communication they need. And then you apply that to everything. And so while I do see brands and gurus kind of say, well, each product should have its own funnel and it should do this. And like, it kind of does it, it's almost a rubber stamping. If your brand stands for the same thing, if your product ethos is the same thing, then there's a natural reason why you have that product on the site. So when you go to do the copy, when you go to do you know, the, the videos and all of that stuff, you have like sort of an inherent consistency to it.
Dave Gerhardt (22:37):
All right. So now I'm on your product pages and your, your product pages are like a masterclass in, in marketing. And so you have like, Hey, not only do you have all of the, like, I'm looking at the body balm and hair balm right now. Like not only can you flip through and see it all, but then you have this, like, you have the description, right. And it's not just like, you know, like someone actually probably you, or I don't know, who knows, I don't know a letter, but like someone has thought about every word on these description pages, right? Like if there was a magic, like how good is this slay all day with this convenient essentials bundle, designed to keep your hair and skin looking great on the go. If there was a magic wand for looking good while not catching a case at TSA, this would be it, this bundle gives your hair and skin, the moisture and nourishment, it needs to tackle any challenge.
Dave Gerhardt (23:26):
That's just like three sentences in the whole description. Then you have, you have all the ingredients, like four paragraphs listed out. You have a whole thing about an FAQ about shipping and like, you know, answering all these questions. What's the cost where you shipped and then about us, like reinforcing all this stuff that you had on your homepage. Now here as seen in black enterprise essence, Forbes travel and more like, I mean, and then you go down here reviews right here. This is a review from Raquel H nothing less than amazing. Like, this is, this is a masterclass. How did it, did it take you a while to get to this? Or did you know this is what our product pages?
Orion Brown (24:07):
Well, I mean, it's been iterative and I will say the unfortunate K hole of being an entrepreneur is sometimes getting an analysis paralysis and being like, Oh, I could change it again. Or I could change it again. I could change it again. But I would say the three elements that created that page was one stealing shamelessly, not stealing copy because that's illegal stealing structure, very legal.
Dave Gerhardt (24:33):
Oh, give me a brand like, cause there's gotta be a brand that you modeled this after. Who's the brand?
Orion Brown (24:36):
Oh yeah. I mean several brands. I mean, when I tell you I take screenshots like crazy. I had to turn off that little sound, that little camera clicker sound. Cause it just makes me sound like a total weirdo all day, click, click, click, any website. I mean, I started out with the supporters of the world because they, so the product page to me is now your store. That's your true store? Like the front, the, you know, the window dressing is that homepage. This is the true store. If I go into a store, I hate salespeople popping up and I kind of want to just like interact with stuff. But I thought about, well, what is my process? When I buy these types of products, what are the things that I want to know? And who does that well? So I looked at the support as in the world, and then even like the brands I would look, I would do a quick comparison and you can do this in any category.
Orion Brown (25:24):
So go to the retailer that really kicks butt. I think we're not swearing here. So it kicks ass go to the retailer that kicks ass, particularly the e-comm space, look at their website, look at how they're selling the products. Are they doing different things based on category, not doing that. And then look at the brands that are leading brands and go to their website and see how they're doing. What do they believe is important to communicate? And so I have to say, I've cobbled a lot of things together. Like I have a folder of hundreds of screenshots where I've literally circled the thing like, Oh, I like that thing. I don't like that thing. And that's actually something I learned from brand management because working with agencies, people don't people are not psychic. They cannot read your mind. So you go, I want something pretty. Pretty is not descriptive, right? So I've gotten into the habit of creating mood boards for everything. And my mood boards are just screenshots or photos of things that I like. And I typically will say, you know, aesthetically, these are the places I want to go. And then here are the things I hate. Let's X those off. We're not going to use them. And here are the things that I think we should be using. And that's how that kind of structure came about.
Dave Gerhardt (26:36):
Every marketer needs, needs a swipe file. And that that's your swipe file. Your mood board. Okay. Tactically, cause people will want to know this. What do you, where do you actually keep those mood boards? What is it?
Orion Brown (26:46):
I just literally, there's no fancy... there's two places that they will show up. One is just a folder on my desktop that is marked website. So these are all website ideas. When I'm doing something on my website, I'm like, instead of me figuring out and starting from scratch, how I want to do it, let me go through my website folder and see if there's anything that applies. And then the second place is my Trello because Trello is where I actually do my project management and kind of keeps me on track. I will use once I say, Oh, I really love that they had this tab, scroll down thing on the page. I don't have time to do that right now. Let me take the picture of that. Throw it in Trello. That's my project for next week. I'm going to work on it.
Dave Gerhardt (27:24):
Love it. Alright. So we've talked to, we've talked to about your, your site. What are, what are the kind of like, what are you doing from a marketing standpoint? Like, are you, you know, do you have some cadence of like, we send out a weekly email, we do a monthly offer. Like I want to try to tell people about like, you know, cause you have this great brand, this great site, but as you know, just because you built it doesn't mean people are going to come. And so like, what's the, like what are you doing from an ads perspective? How do you actually driving sales?
Orion Brown (27:51):
Yes. Yes. So I have been a fair weather friend to Facebook ads. My biggest challenge and just to be transparent is I cannot stand ads manager and I cannot stand the idea of paying somebody to do ads manager for me because it's like, it's one of those things you should never be paying a person more number one than what you're actually spending. So if you want to just do some tests and like kind of throw a few hundred bucks out there, a thousand bucks here or there don't hire somebody to do that. But by the same token know thyself, and if you hate touching ads manager, don't be like me. But I, I, so I've done tests periodically. What I would say is only a fraction of our customers have come from ads. Our primary traffic is coming from social Instagram, some Facebook, but Instagram is sort of our hub because the psychology behind it is where our customers are.
Dave Gerhardt (28:48):
What's your, what's your Instagram can I pull it up?
Orion Brown (28:49)
Black travel it's at black travel box. Yeah. And so with that, you know, so if we look at our customers, then this is why it's really important to do that customer stuff up front, that consumer research upfront, they're going into Facebook to talk about trips and to plan the practicalities of trips. And they're going into Instagram to get inspiration. Sometimes inspiration comes from Facebook because people are sharing their pictures and stuff there. And, but there's these massive groups, massive, massive groups on Facebook. How hundreds of thousands of people getting together to talk about travel. And so for us, it's Instagram is the primary because when you're inspired, you're excited and when you're excited and you start buying stuff for it, write it. And Facebook is sort of the place where we have the more deeper conversations and kind of learn more that I do all my consumer insights work on Facebook because you go and sit like for us travel black travel is our space. I just go sit in a black shadow group and see what people are talking about. I have everything I ever needed to know.
Dave Gerhardt (29:52):
It's, it's amazing. That's like the mo.. that's the most amazing thing. Even like for me, trying to get up to speed on e-commerce over the last, like six to eight months, I've just got joined groups with like, you know, store owners were like, you're hanging out online. And that's where we get the best ideas for content. That's how we got the idea for this podcast and like what to focus on. And so I love that because I think everybody has a niche. Like your focus is like black travel, right. Perfect niche like that. That's, that's really, that's clearly defined. And like, I think just people don't think about enough, like just reverse engineering. Like where do my people hang out? Where are they spending time online? And like, you're not in there trying to sell. You're literally like hanging while you're sitting on the couch, watching TV, or you're hanging out with all of your dream customers who are sharing in their own words. Exactly the problems that you can help solve.
Orion Brown (30:42):
Free focus groups. I have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in the corporate setting to get half the information that I get here because focus groups are weird. It's like, it's a bunch of people who don't know each other, staring at each other at a table they're uncomfortable, they're hungry. And they're wondering when you're going to give them their $75 Amazon card. Exactly. But you want people in their element, you want people in their underwear being like, I want to go to Aruba. How do I do that? And this was my last trip. And here are photos, the crazy things that you can learn from people I'm actually working with like the Microsoft Azure people to figure out a way I'm. And this is, I don't know, I don't think it's secret or anything, but they do like AI that does like screen scraping and all that. So I was like, how do we take that? And then apply that to all these travel photos that people are sharing. So I can look at what, how they do their hair, whether they have like what colors they wear when they travel. Like, cause there's just so much data. You could just see so much data.
Dave Gerhardt (31:40):
You could figure out like, which cool brand, like, you know, you could partner with a fashion brand or sunglasses, like there's so many.
Orion Brown (31:46):
Exactly. Or drop our own sunglasses as a bonus, you know, and say, you know, a gift with purchase these shades that look just like the 50,000 other shades that everybody wants to travel with.
Dave Gerhardt (31:58):
So like, are you, do you, like when you take that stuff, are you, are you doing like, Hey, we're going to come up with an offer. Like w we want to try to drive some sales, like next week, we're going to come up with an offer. And that, that that's going to be a new, new ad creative. Like, are you doing stuff like that?
Orion Brown (32:11):
Yeah, I mean, so that would, I would say that's a part of my innovation budget. I don't know if one can have an innovation budget and be this small, but like but that's sort of the next level next gen of the business, because for me, while we sell hair and skincare, I think the brand has legs much broader. Right. So you know, we're sort of a way needs Glossier for black travel, but that encompasses experience, that bonuses that encompasses all these other things. If I look at a picture, if I look at a picture like a hundred different travelers, right. And I find that they wear their hair similarly, and they like the same colors, I can do things like not only offer products, but you know, we don't even have to product you know, proliferate. We could just get into the place of, well, every time I have an ad, I need to show people that look like they're dressed that way. Right. If most of my travelers are, I mean, one of my ethos in terms of like advertising is we are accessible. But still elevated. So I'm never gonna have a supermodel on one of our ads. I'm never gonna have a supermodel on our pages. It needs to look like real humans. Right. And then the real humans that I show should look like the humans that want to purchase me.
Dave Gerhardt (33:31):
By the way, when you're on that product page, thinking about buying. And I see like real reviews from real humans, like all those things connect. Yeah. Like on your, on your insects. So I was going to ask you who, all of your like, company, you know, product photography and people like, are these all shoots that you've done? Are they, are they models that like, are our friends, like, how do you get all this content? Like I'm looking at someone's in, someone's in Cuba with a big hat, like who are these people?
Orion Brown (34:04):
Those are stock people. I think there's the practicality of just not paying people for shoots, right? So like big companies can send people to Cuba or Aruba or anything else that begins with an or ends with an a and shoot these amazing photoshoots. And then just use them like a few times in a campaign. We don't actually have that luxury right now. We will, we will, we will. And so what I do is, again, though, I talked about briefing earlier. Briefs are so important. Even if you're doing work yourself, it helps you focus in on the thing that you want. So being clear about the look and feel of, of even stock photos gives you that consistency, where people can go, wow, how'd you get all those products shoots done, you know, all those photo shoots. And then some of it, you know, you'll see our videos are real people. Those are people that either people I know or people who have tried the product and that kind of thing. But yeah, like those banner images and stuff, we didn't shoot them.
Dave Gerhardt (35:04):
But I think, I think that that just tells that you have like tastes though, because I think like a lot of people will try to use photos and it's like, you know, like someone in business, clothing and a handshake, you know.
Orion Brown (35:16):
This guy right here, it's the Justin's pose where your elbows are way higher than your shoulders and no one's edges ever be in that direction.
Dave Gerhardt (35:26):
All right. So I want to ask you about the best campaign you've ever run. And we'll do that in a second, but first, before we get there, just last couple of thoughts on marketing. Are there things you've learned about marketing along the way, things you wish you did that you could give to, you know, take, take yourself back maybe three or four years. And like, I got, you know, I got, I got a store going, I got, you know, 22,000 in sales and I'm starting to feel really good. You know, what do I need to do? What, what are the marketing things that really worked for you?
Orion Brown (35:59):
I'm going to use this as a shameless plug to go back to your question about emailing because I never answered it and this is actually a big, huge aha for me. So I would say that I Columbus, you know, I discovered email last spring. I was like, this is so amazing. Other people should do it. Duh.
Dave Gerhardt (36:22):
What, what, what was, what was holding you back? Like why what, what was it something that was holding you back? You just never got to it.
Orion Brown (36:29):
It was slightly never got to, you know, the first thing I did was I need a welcome sequence. I know I need a welcome sequence. So I had the welcome sequence in place and I had it doing different things, but I was also on that other, you know, monkey platform. And there just wasn't, there wasn't enough stimi to really get me digging in and playing around with it, playing around with segmentation, playing around with like how I reach people, behavioral based stuff. And so I was just sorta like, Oh, welcome sequence. Like, let's say a minimum viable product. That's all good. Which is good. It really is. If you're just starting out minimum viable product across your email is great, right? Like you just want to see what works and what doesn't. But at the point that I was like, what if we just kind of did like some funnels or something?
Orion Brown (37:15):
Like, what if you did some flows, what would a flow look like? And I just started piece by piece because again, there's only so many hours of the day and a lot of the stuff I'm doing myself and it's interesting. There's not a lot of email experts out there that, you know, that can come in, come in and do email flows and like help you kind of think through that without costing you honestly, people want like tens of thousands of dollars to do it now. And if you're just starting out, it's like, that's just not that doesn't make a ton of sense to do so. I just kind of took it piecemeal. And to your point of like, where are we at now? Light years away from where I started. So we started out with a welcome sequence today. I think we have, I'm going to say there's more than a dozen ish flows.
Orion Brown (37:57):
To some extent some of the flows are tagging. So I do have some that are just there to do certain things based off of behavioral actions, which I really like. So like, you know, Klayvio allows you to tag and change and update information about individual customers or even visitors depending on if, if they're known. And so even being able to use that, not even to send them something, but just to have gathered information is really helpful, but I've got all the abandoned carts back in stocks, browse abandoned it. So we've got tons of flows. And then from a campaign perspective, this is where I'm still a little green and we're continuing to build on it. We do try to do one or two touchpoints a week. I want that closer to probably three to five. But it's also, I'm trying to be mindful.
Orion Brown (38:40):
Because again, I put my consumer hat on how many times do I get an email in a week? And then at what point do I get so annoyed that I just go ahead and throw them in spam? And so it's, if you don't have a huge list and our list has grown considerably since our lovely friend, Beyonce has graced us with her presence. If your list isn't massive that you want to be careful about too much stuff, touch points, cause you really will be talking to the same people all the time, especially if they're really engaged. Your first few customers are like, this is new. This is cool. I want to read everything you open. Well, they have great open rates, but they can't buy from you 12, 12 times a week.
Dave Gerhardt (39:15):
I love your email approach. Cause I think I've heard a lot of people get stuck at this stage, which is like, I want to do email, but I don't know what to send. And I want to send really creative newsletters and like you actually flipped it. And you said, let's set up all of the automation first, right? Abandoned cart, you know, whatever, all the other like kind of automated, those are like the always on campaigns that are going to run for you. Now it's easy to add the one or two once a month, things that you can do. And it gives you at least you're like recovering revenue and sales and generating that. And that's kind of like happening in your sleep now.
Orion Brown (39:51):
Yes. And I think you hit the nail on the head as much as I can give you a long drawn out explanation. I was lazy and it was easier because you have these flows going. And if you, even, if you just add an email to like your early stage sequence, once every month or two, just have it in there, you're always, I mean, people are going to be in that sequence. If you, way ours is set up. It's, you know, they're getting an email more frequently at the beginning and little bit more spread out towards the end of that, that flow. But they're covered for like six weeks, but six weeks of work I don't have to do for every person that I bring in. And so I think that, you know, it's, it's a great, it's a great lazy factor, but it keeps you in contact and constant contact with your customers without requiring you to come up with something new and juicy every week and chat.
Dave Gerhardt (40:43):
Love it. I was sending a message to the marketing team about that because I think that's the, that's the, that's the email framework that we want to, we want to like help teach, which is like, like, look, newsletters are great. We want you to tell your brand story, please
Orion Brown (40:57):
Through newsletters out. And then I just fell off. I couldn't do it.
Dave Gerhardt (41:01):
But first, you know, do you know what, do you know what, like the, do you know what, like your add to cart rate is on your site? Are those like metrics that, you know?
Orion Brown (41:10):
Yeah. off the top of my head, I think our latest add to cart was around three seven.
Dave Gerhardt (41:17):
So that, so like out of it. So that means out of a hundred people that come 3.7 people add it to their cart?
Orion Brown (41:26):
That fluctuates. Like it goes up as our, I mean, this is the math of it. The denominator comes down. So as people who already engaged with us as our return customer rate is higher than that, that the add to cart goes up. It floats down when we get things like open PR. So we got PR where thousands of people who just were like Beyonce said go here. And then they look and they were like, Oh, I didn't know what it was. Cause she didn't really tell them what it was. It's okay. She didn't have the story for us there. And so then they go, Oh, okay. Nevermind. They look around, but we pixeled them. So there'll be back. So that'll, that'll fluctuate if you're doing advertising well, honestly your top funnel should be pretty wide and you'll see those, if your add to cart starts to drop, it may not necessarily be that you suck. It just might be that more people know you that aren't necessarily qualified.
Dave Gerhardt (42:17):
Yeah. I mean your Beyonce examples exactly. Like the Sephora site that you mentioned, right? Like you're just going to drive a ton of traffic in there. Okay. So this is going to be, what is the Beyonce thing you're going to, is that what you're talking about for best campaign ever?
Orion Brown (42:31):
No, because it wasn't a campaign. It wasn't a campaign, no. So I'm gonna, I'm going to talk about something different.
Dave Gerhardt (42:36):
Okay. All right. Let's let's, I'm excited then. Okay. Go.
Orion Brown (42:42):
So, and, and I'm just actually taking a look into my campaigns now to keep myself honest on the numbers. But I did, so we did a campaign recently. We wanted to do a sale. Wait, is it there? Is it there? Is it there? Yeah. Okay. So, so we wanted, so I wanted to, you know, as everything started to go sideways with Cove and everybody had to sneeze and it was just like a problem and nobody wants to travel and you should not travel. Like don't travel to our, just buy our products and keep for the next time you travel or just use it at home. I was trying to figure out like, do I do a sale? Do I run like something really big? You know, do I need to do a blow out? Do I need to do Christmas in July?
Orion Brown (43:29):
But it was really March at the time I was thinking about it. What do I need to do? And it kind of occurred to me to just, I'm like, I have a community of people that actually have skin in the game around our business. Right. We're a firebrand where we're out here going uphill, trying to get investors going uphill, trying to get awareness, trying to get everything done. I get notes from people all the time that, you know, heard me on like giving the media as a pitch. And they're like, I don't understand why they invest in you, but when you start shipping in Norway, please let me know like, what you're doing is great. And I'm in the like widest most like, you know, the least racially diverse place. And I don't know where to find things that work for me. And I'll take your two ounce jar because I love and believe in what you're doing.
Orion Brown (44:19):
Which is, you know, it gets you a little choked up. And so I thought, you know, why don't I send a, just a note, I'm just going to send an email. So when you talk about like people having issues with like, well, how do I make this newsletter and all that? I literally just sent an email from me. So it was, the dress was from a Ryan, you know, my email. Well, it was, it was our, our customer service emails that'll screw up and their ability, but you get the idea, right? And I'm like, Hey, stuff is rough. And actually I'll tell you, I'll tell you how I worded it. But basically I said, you know, this shit is happening. It's hard to these streets was the campaign name. And then I played around.
Dave Gerhardt (44:58):
So, so, so hard, Hard in These Streets was the campaign name where like this is in Klaviyo.
Orion Brown (45:02):
Yeah. Yeah. So I'm just popping it open, but like it's, so one was the shutdown is no joke as a subject line. Right. And then the other one was it's complicated. It's complicated is actually the one that won. And we had something like 40% open rate. And you know, that campaign probably did three X, any other campaign in terms of sales, because
Dave Gerhardt (45:28):
What was in the email? Like, was it like a promo?
Orion Brown (45:32):
No, it was a, we might have to make some hard choices soon cause y'all ain't traveling and I understand I get it. It's fine. We're all freaked out. However, you know, we've had those. I mean, I just, it wasn't an open letter. It was a vulnerable letter that just basically said, you know, the last year has been rough enough being a small business or starting out and running a startup and trying to do all these things. And you guys have been so supportive through all of the ups and downs and now we're getting hit hard. So if you've ever considered purchasing from us and this was not like the high open rate group, I don't think we went to our big active segment on this. This really was, I was like the cast of a wide net. And just said, if you ever considered purchasing for us, would you consider doing it today? That's awesome.
Dave Gerhardt (46:25):
You know, most other brands would send that email? "Due to the challenging times presented by these unprecedented COVID.." That, that sounds like that was you, literally like, that's you reaching out to your audience.
Orion Brown (46:39):
Yeah. It's and it's being authentic about it. Like there's I would say that there's, you know, if I had to talk about the structure, it was very clear header of this isn't a good time for us as a business. Right. And then giving a little bit of background of where we've been, what we've been through and what we've come from. I talk about like their engagement. It's not a super long email. It just, it's a lot of one liners. And then it's like, you know, if you, if you thought about purchasing from us, could you do it? And here's a couple of things that you might want, like if you're sitting at home ashy and you can't go to the beach and you don't want to like show off your glossy thighs just yet at home and Mother's Day is coming up. So like get mom's stuff, she loves gift sets. She'll make her feel special, but like, whatever it might be, here's a couple ideas. I did actually put a promo in it, but it's like a big, 15% off kind of crazy thing. It was just like a, by the way, you know, for your support, I'm running a special for friends and family because we're close. We've just established a level of vulnerability that some of my exes haven't gotten. So what, you know, here's a little 15% off. If you want to use it. Most people didn't even use the promo. They really didn't.
Dave Gerhardt (47:52):
That was a great dig.
Orion Brown (47:57):
So, you know, I mean, and, and I thought this, I mean, I got notes back from people cause they replied back like keep going sister and like all kinds of stuff. So I actually got physical responses to this note and put a prompt to it. And I just thought that
Dave Gerhardt (48:12):
That's really cool. There's probably people that didn't even buy, but just like you sending that message was like, yes, this is the brand. I'm glad to be on your email list. Like this is the blur a brand that I want to be a part of. Yeah. All right. So that's the best campaign go? You go best campaign. No, that was the best campaign you ever, you ever said you got to add a bow on this for YouTube. Okay. Since we have two minutes though, can you tell me more, can you tell me more about the Beyonce thing? Like how did it happen?
Orion Brown (48:45):
The grace of God? So basically for over Juneteenth weekend for June, she released her black parade album. And as a, as a part of that as a part of her foundation and other things that she does, she created essentially a directory of black owned businesses in a number of categories. A miracle from on high, I have no idea. She had, she had someone curate and they, they curated some businesses and I ended up in, I didn't even actually believe I was on there. Somebody messaged us, we got DMS about it. And I thought it was one of those, like, you know, I'm assuming, and in Prince send me $5,000, here's, you know, what's your social security number kind of thing. Cause those even happen on business accounts. Like, don't let these people tell you that this doesn't happen everywhere. And so I was like, I'm not clicking on that link.
Orion Brown (49:33):
What are you crazy? And then I started getting text messages from people I know. And they were like, no, really you're on, you're on her website. And so I'm really grateful for them. And I think the group that, that curated, that was like black owned everything, but yeah, it was, it was really cool. We were like, my face is on Beyonce website, which is weird. I was like, Oh God, okay. That's what we're doing now. And they did post our Instagram, not our website note to the wise, get your website as the first click, not necessarily right. Instagram, especially when you have a celebrity endorsement. But it did have a really great boost to our Instagram as well as we did see a bump in our website, the biggest piece. And this is where if the endorsement itself isn't perfect, that's okay because you can still leverage it. So one of the thing that I did the next day after I just like ran through the streets naked, like "Beyonce know's my name, this is crazy." The next day was laying out a list of relevancy based publications, media who were actually talking about buying from black businesses. So I had my VA go out, everybody that spoke about like everybody that had like a here's 15 black businesses, and this is what you should be doing. And there's this movement. We sent them a note in particular I'm in Colorado. So I was like, I'm pretty sure I'm the only business from Colorado on her list.
Orion Brown (51:06):
So we're definitely doing all the local media and being like, this is your one claim to fame. Beyonce knows you're a state now. And we went out and we, and we were still pitching people based off of that. We're using it as a proof point. We're going to influencers who were kind of flaky. I mean, no names , but you know, you send them notes. They may or may not get back to you, send them product. They may or may not get back to you. So being able to say, "Hey, by the way, you do know that the queen knows us. You sure you don't want to put that body balm on.? That's, that's what we've been doing.
Dave Gerhardt (51:35):
It's literally the best social proof and stamp that you can have as a business. That, that whole thing that you just said is amazing though, that I just want to like replay that for people, because that, that is like how I know that you're a marketing machine, like to not just be like, Oh cool. Cause I think a lot of people be like, this is awesome. And you kind of bask in it for awhile. You tell all your friends, but like you immediately took action on two things. Number one, you updated your website and as seen in Beyonce is now in your social proof banner everywhere, but like the whole play to go deeper and then go to all the local press through your VA is like, that's, that's that that's next level that might be too advanced for this podcast. That's amazing.
Dave Gerhardt (52:18):
Well, all right. And this was, this was awesome. You're an awesome entrepreneur. I'm pumped to get to talk to you. Probably. This is one of my favorite episodes we've done. Cause I think we, we've got a nice group of tactical and you know, you know your stuff and that's awesome. So if you haven't done it already go and check out theblacktravelbox.com also @blacktravelbox on Instagram. So you can go and see like, and I would actually just pull up the website. Cause I think this is a perfect example. Look, if you're, if you have a Shopify store, if you're a small and growing e-commerce brand, like to Ryan's point about like finding examples to swipe and copy, this is a perfect brand. And we, we, we talked to a lot of like, you know, cosmetic skincare, health and beauty brands. This would be a perfect template to go and copy. So it's awesome. And people should go and copy all your stuff.
Orion Brown (53:06):
Yeah. Steal shamelessly, as long as it's not the copy. I'm good with it.
Dave Gerhardt (53:10):
Thanks for doing it. We'll talk to everybody later, Orion. Nice to meet you. Go leave us a review. If you liked this episode,
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