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Interview with Jimmy Zona – E-commerce Marketing Lessons from a Pro – Episode #67
      • “[E-commerce marketing] is so difficult now because anyone can open up a Shopify store, you collaborate with other brands and sell [their products], you can drop-ship, there are just so many stores and everybody is just trying to make it…”

        Jimmy Zona is the Director of E-Commerce & Digital Marketing for Turbie Twist. At Turbie Twist, he created and scaled the company’s digital presence in order to become the market leader in its category. In this episode of the podcast, we talk about all things e-commerce: ads, SEO, cross-channel marketing, email marketing strategies, and more!

        Questions and topics we covered include:

        • How did Jimmy get into the hair care industry?
        • What lessons did he take from his tv producing experience while transitioning to a full-time marketer?
        • Why is scaling an e-commerce business difficult? Is it difficult?
        • What’s the single best way to re-engage users who abandon an app/website?
        • How is Jimmy handling email updates with iOS 15 rolling out? (Hint: he’s focusing on SMS marketing)
        • When is it the right time for an e-commerce business to run ads?
        • What are the best examples of cross-channel marketing?
        • What are the similarities between building an affiliate marketing network and scaling PR hits?
        • How does e-commerce and SEO come together? Do e-commerce businesses need an SEO strategy?
        • What are the main reasons why he doesn’t use influencer marketing?
        • What’s the hardest part about marketing products on Amazon? Should e-commerce marketers focus on DTC-only, Amazon as the main focus, or a mix?


    Full Episode Transcript:


    Kenny Soto  0:02  

    Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the people of digital marketing. And then today’s guest is Jimmy zona. Hi, Jimmy, how are you?


    Jimmy Zona  0:16  

    Hey, Kenny, I’m doing well, how are you?


    Kenny Soto  0:18  

    I’m doing great. prior to recording this episode, I told you a little bit about the audience. And now I think it’s time for the audience to learn a little more about who you are as a professional. So my first question for you is what got you into digital marketing? And the second part of that question, as you go through your story is, why do you market hair towels?


    Jimmy Zona  0:42  

    Yeah, good question. Good question. Well, I promise I have an answer to it. A little bit about me, I’ve had a very varied career. mostly centered around project management. I think that’s kind of a skill set that bodes well for, you know, aspiring marketers, I worked in television production for 10 years out in LA and worked on some big shows, like the bachelor in American Idol and whatnot. And actually, my sisters have this company Turbie twist. 


    And so you know, over the 10 years, you know, we’d exchange stories about what we’re doing in our careers. And, you know, I knew the brand, and I knew where they were, they were already super successful in brick and mortar. But I just really felt like everything I was seeing online, and where brands were going wasn’t, we didn’t have that for Turbie twist, or, you know, my sisters didn’t have that for their company. 


    And in television, you have these gaps between shows. And the one time I said, you know, what, if I take a look at Turbie twist, and what we can do with it, you know, I’ve been seeing our competitors were building Shopify sites and building out their email lists and whatnot. And so I just kind of dug headfirst into that. And I, you know, coded our Shopify site ourselves, actually, from California, and just grew it from there from scratch until I moved back to Pittsburgh, where the company’s based, and I’ve been working at the office full time for about a year and a half.


    Kenny Soto  2:23  

    Now, tying back to something you mentioned about TV production. What specific lessons did you take from that experience that helps you with marketing Turbie Twists today?


    Jimmy Zona  2:38  

    That’s a great question. I think that you know, in the e-commerce world, or in digital marketing, it’s super crowded, it’s super competitive. And I think my experience in television was similar, where, you know, even just getting a job was super competitive, you had to know the right people, you had to have the right timing, and some of it was just luck. But a lot of it had to do with the work ethic and just the ability to analyze the situation, see what needs to be done and make things happen. 


    So, you know, my you know, work style is very quick paced, and kind of all-encompassing right now, I am in charge of everything digital at our brand. So I think it’s just like the willingness, to fill gaps and innovate. That is the key and television, I started as a production assistant, filling coolers, you know, passing out crafty, going on runs. And I learned bit by bit by bit, you know, how things ran. 


    And eventually, I worked myself up to being a Production Manager for these really big stage shows. And I think that’s just like the Curiosity is what is behind, you know, I think, a great marketer of figuring out as I did with Turbie, twist, okay, what do we need? What makes sense? What can we afford? What are other people doing? You know, and making sure that you’re staying relevant.


    Kenny Soto  4:14  

    Now, I’m personally a newbie when it comes to the world of E-commerce. So my next question is vague on purpose, so that way you can impart your own wisdom. Why is scaling an E-commerce business difficult? And in your opinion, is it difficult?


    Jimmy Zona  4:34  

    Hmm. I think it’s so difficult because it’s so accessible to everyone. Now, anyone can make a Shopify store, put up products, either your own or you can now collaborate with other brands and sell theirs. You can drop ship, there are just so many stores and everybody’s trying to make it. So scaling. You know, you can spend a whole lot of money right now and not get anything out of it. I think that is a famous article that influence…


    Kenny Soto  5:18  

    Jimmy, I apologize. But the audio cut off as soon as you said that there was an article about influencers are you still there?


    Kenny Soto 0:00  

    Jimmy, you mentioned something about an article.


    Jimmy Zona 0:10  

    Yeah. What’s funny is that you know, there was an Instagram influencer, who was famous for having over a million followers. And she thought, Great, I can capitalize on this, I’m going to sell these T-shirts. And she couldn’t even sell one. 


    And there was this, you know, they were talking about how could that happen? How could a million people be following you, and you not be able to sell anything, you know, when you want to? And I think that’s just showing how noisy the marketplace is, how are so many people who could be tuning in who don’t want to buy, you know, who need to be marketed in the right way, maybe they just wanted to follow her, or maybe they didn’t want to buy her t-shirt. 


    So I think that scaling, like you, really has to know that people want your product or your service before you start spending the money. Because, believe me, Facebook will take you, you know, 30 $50,000, you know, in a month. And you know, that’s it. So I think that scaling is so hard because you have to really know that you’re on a rock-solid foundation before you start.


    Kenny Soto 1:14  

    Now in terms of the acquisition, and I think this applies to any marketer, whether it’s b2b or b2c. the acquisition is difficult in and of itself. But once you get a user into your app, your online store your website, and what have you, what’s the best way or best set of tactics you’ve used to reengage users who have abandoned your website?


    Jimmy Zona 1:42  

    I’d have to say, email, I think was one of the things that completely surprised me, I was so focused on building the store. And then I thought about, you know, social ads, and what I should have been doing on day one was building my email list.


    Because the engagement is so high compared to every other acquisition channel. And you kind of has that customer for life as far as long as you manage the relationship properly. And you don’t take advantage of that. But I think that you know, when customers come to the site, they might not be ready to buy an email, and now text marketing is just a very affordable way to engage with your customer base and bring them back. For more.


    Kenny Soto 2:31  

    Now, there are many directions I can go from here. But I do want to follow up on the email specifically, what are you doing and or considering now that iOS 15 is rolling out slowly? And right now, the assumption and the buzz around town, if you will, is that open rates will be inflated because of iOS 15. What are you doing to tackle that issue?


    Jimmy Zona 2:58  

    Well, we have stepped up our SMS marketing, it’s kind of funny, it’s probably more of a shift. You know, I think that if people want to receive your emails, it’s kind of like, with SMS, I’ll give this example. I work with attentive, there are a lot of really great companies out there. But attentive recommends that you send two texts a week, for the purpose of if people want to unsubscribe, they should, if people don’t want to get your emails, they should unsubscribe, they shouldn’t keep getting them. 


    So my opinion is kind of like that, with iOS 15 rolling out in privacy updates, and, you know, hiding my email and whatnot. I think that the message will still get through to the people who want it. So I guess I’m not too worried about it. But SMS is definitely, you know, rising. I’m sure. I’ve heard that they’re like previews of on iOS, future generations that there’ll be a promotions tab and your texts coming.


    Kenny Soto 4:11  

    Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. Definitely with Apple, potentially with Android if there’s an additional app that you can connect to your text messages. But that’s beside the point, I want to talk about SMS in a different light. And this can be in terms of martech. Specifically, what tool or set of tools do you use to manage your SMS marketing and why?


    Jimmy Zona 4:36  

    Well, I try to keep it simple because I am a team of one. Our whole company has five employees. So we all do a lot of you know, different. You know, we wear a lot of different hats. So I tried to look for a leader in the SMS space, who you know was going to have a roadmap for a couple of years at least of being at the forefront of what’s going on because it’s still kind of a gray area, you know, you want to make sure that you’re covered and your legal obligations and that you’re growing as fast as you should. 


    So I do everything attentively. And same with an email with clay, VO, they’re both just super high-powered platforms that, you know, can allow you to do everything kind of in one place. And that just helps me out. And you know, a lot of small businesses, I’m sure, keep it simple.


    Kenny Soto 5:31  

    Now, tying back to something you mentioned earlier, when is the right time for businesses, specifically e-commerce businesses to run ads? Should they be running ads from day one? Should they be waiting for a specific point in time when they’ve been able to get leads, not leads? But customers organically? What are your thoughts on that?


    Jimmy Zona 5:54  

    That’s a great question. Because I would say you should not right out of the gate, start running ads, because there are so many things, as I learned building the store that you have to have, right before, you know, you’re really going to get the return on investment. 


    So the first thing, you know, people I’m sure you do, I do, when you’re shopping online, you want to see those reviews, you want to see, you know, at least 50 reviews, you know, for a product to really before you want to put it out there in a paid ad environment, you want to make sure your SEO is on point, that was something that took, you know, over a year for me to establish, even with a brand that’s been around for 25 years, just it takes a lot, especially if you have competition, to dig your heels into the ground, on the web. 


    So you want to make sure all of your building blocks are in place, you want to make sure all your you know, photos and product play, display pages are optimized. And then once you have all that, then you can start spending. That’s kind of the fun part, you know, is when you can start putting it out there and really drive the acquisition and scaling.


    Kenny Soto 7:05  

    Now, here’s another open-ended question for you. What are the best examples of cross-channel marketing?


    Jimmy Zona 7:14  

    Hmm, well, you know, email and SMS play well together, and email and Facebook play well together, I think that there are a lot of different combinations. And the best marketers can find those, you know, things that play off each other in the customer journey. 


    I think the thing that works best for us is like the gift guides, you know, getting in some of those gift guides, just that one little push in our we have an affiliate marketing channel, to not only boosts your, you know, credibility, but just to give the customer somebody else’s point of view on the product. 


    You know, if you’re just pushing somebody really hard on a product, just because you say it’s great, that will only get so far, and you’re only going to, you know, convert at a lower rate. So, you know, I guess it’s kind of an open answer back, but it’s really just about knowing what, you know, what the customer needs in order to purchase if that’s your intent.


    Kenny Soto 8:22  

    Yeah. And just to dive in a little deeper, and this is a segue into potential PR, what are the different considerations? Or maybe there might be similarities? When you’re considering your affiliate marketing channel? Is it the way to set it up? Kind of the same as getting a network of PR, writers, and journalists, what have you got that extra exposure?


    Jimmy Zona 8:48  

    Yeah, it is very similar. Because you have to have a story, you know, I thought going in well, people are just going to want to write about the Turbie twist, you know, but really, you need a strong store, you need something that’s either new or innovative or, you know, a headline for editors to really pick you out. 


    So it’s very similar to PR, where, you know, you have to almost create press releases for affiliates, so that they can see oh, you know, this is Turbie twist 25th anniversary or you know, cross 50 million hairstyles sold, historically, something, you know, that they want to write about. So there are a lot of different similarities between affiliate marketing and PR, but I think that they’re kind of complementary and that you could have both.


    Kenny Soto 9:41  

    Now, this is a leading question, how do e-commerce and SEO come together? And do e-commerce businesses need an SEO strategy?


    Jimmy Zona 9:52  

    I would definitely say yes. That every e-commerce business needs an SEO strategy for The reason being that you’re only going to get so much traffic from the direct, you know, either direct people who type in your website, or you know, your poor products, but there are so many other ways to get people to your site. 


    So we have like over 250 blog articles, I believe that talking about anything haircare. So no matter if somebody’s googling how much you know, how often should I shampoo my hair? Or how do I do a keratin treatment, all of that can be served on your website, and then with the possibility that the customer or the viewer is gonna stay Oh, also, what’s the site about? So the SEO just magnifies everything else that you’re going to be doing? Because it just increases your, you know, your breath so much. 


    And so I think it’s essential, I think it’s kind of like digital real estate, you know, where you’re kind of owning your spot in the segment. And the more you can invest in that. It’s something that’s really hard to take away. It was really, it’s really hard to build it was for me, and it’s hard to take away.


    Kenny Soto 11:12  

    Jimmy in regards to influencer marketing, are you doing anything in regard to that tactic? And if so, what are some considerations you can share with other marketers who might be planning an influencer strategy for their business?


    Jimmy Zona 11:28  

    Yes, I don’t do very much of it. And the reason is, that it’s very expensive to do on the scale that most people see online. So I think that probably the most important consideration is that a lot of influencers won a ton of money, just to make a video that will go out once or you know, one post. 


    So what we like to do is give away free products, you know, and if influencers love it, and they want to share about it, they can, and then that ties into an affiliate, you know, if they want to you have a code, you know, you can work out some sort of deal with them. 


    But I think just you know, the influencer marketing as it’s become, has become a really big pay-to-play arena. So there are different tools you can use to get around that there are some video marketplaces where you can work with people who review products all the time, that you can get that UGC style content without, you know, trying to get a hold of Kim Kardashian. So, yeah, I think it’s, it definitely works. And it’s definitely something that marketers need to look into. But it’s not going to be right for every business.


    Kenny Soto 12:47  

    I’m glad you mentioned UGC, what tactics and campaigns Have you recently launched in regard to UGC for your business?


    Jimmy Zona 12:57  

    So, you know, that’s what, that’s what I was kind of leading into with being able to reach out to either micro influencers or people who are fans of your product, or there are these sites where you can, you know, get in touch with people who do this as a full-time job. 


    We just recently launched. I think it’s between six and eight videos of women trying the Turbie twist and giving their honest evaluation of it. And we’re promoting that across Facebook and Instagram, and Tik Tok. As a sort, instead of an ad, it’s more of just a product review or a personal recommendation. 


    And that goes a lot farther than producing a $20,000 video that looks produced and looks like an ad. It’s not something that people really want to see when they’re browsing their TikTok or Instagram reels,


    Kenny Soto 13:53  

    Videos in living rooms outperform videos in studios. This is an assumption I’ve been having since the Tiktok launch, but you have just helped me confirm it more and more. So now three more questions for you, Jimmy. 


    The next one is what’s the hardest part about marketing products on Amazon? And should e-commerce marketers focus on DTC only on Amazon as the main focus or a mix?


    Jimmy Zona 14:23  

    Oh, I would say a mix because they do play into each other. Honestly, that was probably one that was my biggest mistake. When I started I focused so much on the website and I didn’t give enough attention to Amazon. 


    And I think everybody needs to, you know, consider if they can take advantage of it because it is a huge marketplace. Obviously, everybody knows that. The intent to shop is crazy. Like people want to buy things when they’re on Amazon. 


    So once I started getting into the Amazon marketplace, I just saw things take off like crazy and now we’re the top A brand of hair towel, even though there are now you know, all these competitors in the space. It’s just, you know, a huge treasure trove of new customers. So that’s the great part of it. 


    The downside is that more and more even as I’ve been working with Amazon, it’s becoming more of a pay-to-play game, where sponsored ads display all of the advertising suites and are becoming not just a nice to have, but a must-have. 


    So if you really want to get serious about Amazon, you’re gonna have to start paying a fraction of your revenue to advertise your product, otherwise, you’re just not going to gain traction. That’s, I actually, heard that Amazon’s advertising revenue has now surpassed the revenue that it takes in from the sellers themselves. 


    It’s becoming a very core profit driver for Amazon, the company. So that’s the only thing it’s, it’s hard in E-commerce because there are so many players. And you know, it can be expensive. So you just want to make sure you, you know, are focused on what you’re doing, and you’re monitoring it like crazy. Before asking


    Kenny Soto 16:15  

    My next question is. For the listener who’s interested in a deep dive on Amazon PPC, check out episode 25. With Dr. Travis Ziggler. He does a great explanation on Amazon PPC, how to outperform your competitors and how to use their brand, keywords, and even their name to siphon off some of their audience. Now, Jimmy, my next question is what are some hard or soft skills that you leveraged throughout your entire career as a marketer?


    Jimmy Zona 16:48  

    Well, hard skills I’ve always been interested in, you know, technology and new things that are online. So that’s something that I think people need to have if you’re going to launch something yourself, for example, me building the original Shopify store by myself, you know, I think that one of the things that I like to give advice about is that you can get caught up, yes, you do have to be careful about your business plan. 


    But it’s very important. And I would say it’s more important to actually do something about it. So to just launch the site and then iterate, you know, see what works, see what doesn’t, because you can get caught in this trap of oh, well, I don’t know, I don’t know, what should I do. But you have to keep moving forward. 


    And so I think that’s a soft skill that people should have is resilience and thinking about, okay, you know, maybe something didn’t work, that’s fine, because now I know it doesn’t work, or it’s not my market or my channel. You know, you kind of have to be realistic. So I think resilience, definitely, tech-savvy help. 


    And the willingness to work more than your competition. That’s something I mean, I don’t know what my personal opinion is of Elon Musk. But I did hear one time, he had said, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to be working 10 times the amount of hours that your competition is, who’s just doing a nine to five, and that’s what’s going to, you know, eventually, put you ahead because you just have to invest, you know, everything and care so much about it. And for me, that’s paid off, you know, I work 24/7. I take breaks when I can, but I care so much about my company.


    Kenny Soto 18:50  

    My last question is hypothetical. But if you had access to a time machine, Jimmy, and you can go back about 10 years, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you accelerate the speed of your career?


    Jimmy Zona 19:04  

    Hmm, well, 10 years ago, interestingly enough for the brand, they were trying out another television commercial because our product was popularized in the 90s with television and infomercials. So they tried out another infomercial. And if 10 years ago, I would have told them don’t do it, don’t spend the money. 


    Because things are changing so quickly, I think, you know, there were probably even geo cities back then. I feel like making a website was difficult. I would try to find you know, the people who were building the future of the web and try to get in there. Start my SEO and email list on day one. 


    And you know, from there, I think things would have been a lot easier because I was I took our site from it was still flashed with like some flashy animation even In 2019, I think you just always have to take a step back and look at what you have and say, you know, is this outdated? Is this on-brand, you know, in line with the rest of the marketplace? Because you can get kind of stuck if you have something that works, and you don’t want to change it.


    Kenny Soto 20:21  

    Amazing. Thank you so much, Jimmy, for your time today. And if anyone wants to say hello, where can they find you online?


    Jimmy Zona 20:28  

    They can find me at Turbie I’m on LinkedIn as Jimmy zona, my email address, I can share as well, if anybody has any questions. That’s Jay Zona at Turbie Feel free to send me an email. I’d love to give advice if anybody you know would like it.


    Kenny Soto 20:46  

    Awesome. Thanks for your time today. And thank you to your listener for listening to another episode of the people of digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto. And as always, I hope you have a great day. 




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